The Port of Oakland workers of SEIU Local 1021 have been negotiating a contract for more than a year and are facing demands for cuts and concessions, descended on a maritime port terminal Thursday evening, Sept. 6 to show Port management they are ready to step up the fight.
More than 100 workers and their labor and community allies marched at the gates of SSA, one of the country’s largest stevedoring corporations whose parent company Carrix, Incorporated is 49 percent owned by Goldman Sachs. Goldman Sachs is one of the big financial institutions responsible for the 2008 Wall Street crash and a major player in the Port’s operations. With further cuts and concessions, it stands to make even more.
In a measured but pointed action, Local 1021 members and friend bussed down to the terminal and set up at the entrance of the gates just as the shift change began. Members leafleted the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) longshoremen, informing them of their contract fight. The Local 1021 picket line fits the ILWU’s contractual definition of respect. The ILWU—especially the Bay Area’s Local 10—is legendary for its solidarity actions in support of other unions.
Even though the Port is making money, estimated at $35 million in profit this past fiscal year, management is demanding employees swallow more than a 15 percent cut in compensation through a combination of lost cost of living adjustments (COLA) and increased contributions to pensions. Workers are merely asking for a rollover of the current contract with a wage COLA.
In its latest bargaining session Port management made overtures toward a settlement. Yet a showdown is looming and a Oakland port shutdown, with the cooperation of the ILWU, would rattle not just the fifth largest in the US, but would seriously disrupt global trade.
Workers suffered furloughs and layoffs in 2009 and 2010 when the Port was feeling the effects of the 2008 crash, but are adamant about not doing it again while it is in the black. Local 1021 members rejected a contract offer that included those concessions 177-3 last April.
The Port doesn’t dispute its profits, just that it wants to use those funds and what they hope to bleed from the workers, for its capital projects. Profits and cuts have Local 1021 members angry as they are being asked to sacrifice yet again for the benefit of Wall Street billionaires. Goldman Sachs is already milking the strapped City of Oakland for $4 million a year on an interest rate swap deal gone bad.
Besides its large holdings in SSA, Goldman Sachs has a smaller stake in two big shipping lines that frequent the port, Maersk and K-Lines. The company makes millions more as an underwriter and dealer of the Port’s numerous and complex bond and commercial paper deals. It’s also involved in the Port’s many waterfront real estate and development projects. Port business is funneled to Goldman Sachs through Port of Oakland Chief Financial Officer Sara Lee, a former Vice President at Goldman Sachs where she was the bank’s liaison to the Port.