INLAND BOATMEN'S UNION PROTESTS 'RAIDING' ACTION BY RIVAL UNION

INLAND BOATMEN'S UNION PROTESTS 'RAIDING' ACTION BY RIVAL UNION

The Inland Boatmen's Union says it is being raided by District 1 of the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association.

The dispute is over which union will represent 136 unlicensed engine room workers on the 23 ferryboats operated by the state of Washington, the largest ferry system in the United States.Mario White, MEBA-1's branch officer in the Port of Seattle says oilers and wipers who work on the ferryboats came to MEBA-1 because they were unhappy with the way the IBU was representing them. He says they asked for an election to see if a majority wanted to switch affiliation and have MEBA-1 represent them.

Not surprisingly, the IBU doesn't see it that way.

They're raiding us, says Burrill Hatch, president of the IBU.

The raiding accusation comes at a time when the parent of the IBU, the International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union, is expected to vote at its international convention this April on a plan to rejoin the AFL-CIO. The ILWU was banished from the Congress of Industrial Organizations in the 1950s for allegedly being pro-communist.

One of the benefits of belonging to the AFL-CIO is protection from being raided by other unions.

Mr. White said the current election wouldn't be happening if the ILWU were already part of the AFL-CIO because MEBA-1 respects the labor federation's anti-raiding rules.

But he says this campaign was started many, many months before the ILWU talked about coming into the AFL-CIO.

A mail ballot is expected to begin in about a week and will end April 18. The election will be supervised by the Marine Employees Association, an agency run by the state of Washington.

Elton Eilert, employee relations director at Washington State Ferries, said the state was neutral about the election and that it was up to the workers to decide who they wanted to represent them.

One of the motivations behind the oilers and wipers seeking the election is a desire to be able to advance into licensed jobs, he said.

About 700 seamen work on the Washington State Ferries, with about 400 deck and engine workers represented by the IBU. Deck workers won't be voting on whether to join MEBA-1. About 160 engineering officers who work on the ferries are represented by MEBA-1, and about 150 deck officers are represented by the International Organization of Masters, Mates, and Pilots.

MEBA-1 is voting on a plan to merge with the National Maritime Union. But it is not clear whether the ferry workers will be represented by the licensed division or the unlicenseddivision of the new NMU-MEBA-1 after the election.