Delegates to the 35th convention of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union voted unanimously to affiliate with the Panama Canal Pilots Union.
The 250-member union represents pilots who guide ships through the canal, providing passage for vessels moving between Asia and the U.S. East and Gulf coasts.
The affiliation follows a long history of partnerships formed by the West Coast dockworkers with maritime unions in other regions of the world. As ILWU President Bob McEllrath stated in September when the Panamanians announced their intention to affiliate with the ILWU, “With so many employers now going global, it’s critical for workers around the globe to join forces and work together.”
Because each of the unions maintains its own contract and work rules, and there are often no-strike clauses prohibiting sympathy strikes while the contracts are in effect, the possibility of coordinated job actions involving the unions is remote.
Nevertheless, delegates from the various unions usually attend each other’s conventions and offer words of support when one of the unions is engaged in a jurisdictional dispute or when contract negotiations break down.
As an example of union solidarity, International Longshoremen’s Association President Harold Daggett spoke Wednesday at the ILWU convention about the issues the ILA faces during its current contract negotiations with employers on the East and Gulf coasts. McEllrath assured Daggett the ILWU supports the ILA on critical issues such as automation.
In a statement last month, McEllrath told the ILA the threat posed to East and Gulf Coast dockworkers from automation at marine terminals is similar to the threat the ILWU faces on the West Coast.
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