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International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union, Local 13 (Wilmington, Los Angeles, Calif.) | Special Collections & Archives

Name: International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union, Local 13 (Wilmington, Los Angeles, Calif.)

Historical Note:

In 1892, members of the longshore union met in Detroit, Michigan to christen their organization as the National Longshoremen's Association of the United States. The new union quickly became an official arm of the trade unionist movement by joining with the American Federation of Labor (AFL). With successful expansion into ports on the east and west coasts, including several Canadian ports by 1895, the union changed its name to the International Longshoremen's Association (ILA).

By the end of 1933, West Coast longshoremen voted to suspend local ILA president Lee Holman rather than accept a conservative contract largely supported by the East Coast membership. This was a major setback for ILA president Joe Ryan. Thus, the 1934 West Coast Longshore Strike began.

Union solidarity and commitment to coast-wide bargaining gained during the early days of the 1934 West Coast Strike and the support shown through the San Francisco General Strike gave longshoremen the confidence they needed to turn down the settlement agreed to by Joe Ryan, President of the ILA, and continue the strike. Except for San Pedro longshoremen, whose conservative leadership convinced its membership to abide by the agreement, the rest of the West Coast locals voted in favor of continuing their violent struggle for recognition and a coast wide agreement more favorable to dockworkers.

The 1934, West Coast Strike was the first truly successful attempt by the ILA to gain control of the waterfront. It was also the beginning of the end for the conservative faction within the International to maintain control of the West Coast longshoremen. On October 12, 1934 a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) arbitration ruling awarded the longshoremen increases in base rates of pay, provisions for penalty cargo rates, the establishment of the thirty-hour work week, and, most important, joint operation of the hiring hall whereby dispatchers would be selected by the ILA.

In the coming years, numerous setbacks coupled with the lack of International support for the 1936 West Coast 98-day maritime strike led many of the West Coast locals to form an independent "Waterfront Federation." The final break from the ILA came in May during the 1937 Annual Convention of the ILA's Pacific Coast District, when three resolutions were passed by the membership to leave the AFL to join the newly established Committee of Industrial Organizations (later known as the CIO).

In August 1937, the CIO issued a new charter to the "International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union" (ILWU). Then, in June 1938, the National Labor Relations Board voted in favor of the ILWU as the recognized bargaining agent for the entire Pacific Coast. The ILWU has remained separate from the ILA since these early jurisdictional, political and organizational disputes. In 1950, the ILWU would again face political turmoil with a growing conservatism within the CIO. The longshoremen of the West Coast, along with ten other "left-wing" unions were expelled from the CIO during the early years of the Cold War. The fact that the ILWU was the only union to survive this drastic measure by the national organization attests to the solidarity of its leadership and membership and their continued commitment to union activism.

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