Rackateering Lawsuit Against ILA Leaders Must Give Members Control

Reform-minded members of the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) want a say in how their union is cleaned up. It is critical that members’ concerns are heard and incorporated into any agreement arising out of a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) lawsuit filed against the ILA by the U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn on July 6, 2005.

Rank-and-file ILA members have been organizing against undemocratic and corrupt practices within the ILA since 1999, when the Longshore Workers Coalition (LWC) formed, a reform group composed of ILA members and elected officers from ILA locals all along the East Coast, from Canada to Houston.

“Unfortunately there has been corruption and the membership of our union has suffered,” says Leonard Riley, an ILA member from Charleston, South Carolina, and co-chair of the LWC. “The members are the only ones who can rid our union of corruption and chart a course for the future. If we get an impartially-run membership vote for top officers, we will clean up this union.”



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“Over 1,000 ILA members have signed a petition demanding direct elections and an end to retaliation,” says Tony Perlstein, an ILA member in New Jersey and the other LWC co-chair. “We are in the process of launching a union-wide campaign to make sure that members are assured a place at the table. Longshore workers around the world know that a democratic union is the only way members can fight for safe workplaces, decent standards of living and benefits.”

Demands put forward in past RICO cases, and which ought to be considered, include:

  • Hold direct elections of all top officers run by an impartial election officer, and support fair local union elections with a healthy, balanced democratic process and atmosphere open to political discussion.
  • Create rules and enforcement to protect members from retaliation for internal union activity, including ending hiring discrimination.
  • Create an independent investigative board to review all continued allegations of corruption, including oversight of benefit funds.

Marsha Niemeijer, on staff with Labor Notes, says,"The LWC is putting forward the basic idea that the members should control the union, including electing their top officers. The experience of the Teamsters, which also has a strong reform movement, is that members will join a struggle to oust corruption and build a stronger union."