Membership Solidarity at the Port Results in Contract Settlement

The contract settlement comes after the L21 Port of Oakland Chapter showed solidarity by voting to authorize a strike and turning out in mass to the November 12th Oakland Board of Port Commissioners meeting. At the following negotiation session, Port of Oakland management dropped their proposal to take away Port Deputy Attorneys (Unit J)’s Just Cause protections and agreed to settle the issue in arbitration. The new 30-month contract also gives Port of Oakland employees a 4% raise retroactive to July 1, 2015, a 2% on July 1, 2016 and another 2% on July 1, 2017.

Leading up to the November 12th Board meeting Local 21 members had already submitted a petition with 130 signatures to the Board, participated in a “Keep Just Cause for Unit J” sticker day and voted 89% “Yes” in support of strike authorization to favor of their Unit J colleagues.

At a packed Port Commissioners meeting last week, Ronald Brown, L21 Chapter President spoke in public comment and questioned why the a small group of Port employees should be exempted from the union protections the rest of the Port of Oakland chapter enjoys. “We want fair treatment for all of our members,” he told Board of Port Commissioners.

Brown, like many of the members present that day, would not be personally affected by the Port’s proposal. Nevertheless he emphasized the importance of challenging the Port’s last-minute takeaway proposal.

Brown made the remarks on Nov. 12 to a sea of Local 21 T-shirts worn by over 80 chapter members who turned out to support their Unit J coworkers.

L21 Director of Field Services Alex Tonisson accompanied the members to the Board meeting and spoke at the open session.

Addressing the Commissioners, Tonisson criticized Port negotiators for upsetting the contract settlement framework at the very last minute over this misguided attempt to take away one small group’s basic union’s rights.  He pointed out, it wasn’t even an economic consideration; no money would be saved by making Unit J members at-will employees.  He urged the Commissioners to drop the proposal before it came to a strike.

“No union member wants to go on strike and this is the first time that the professionals that work at the Port have had to resort to the possibility of a strike. However, the illegal violation of our agreed upon negotiating ground rules and continued attempts to deny the basic union rights of our Unit J Deputy Port Attorneys, has forced our membership to take this extreme step” Tonisson said to the Board.

After the board session closed, Brown walked out feeling confident about the member turnout to the Board meeting, and now we see that union solidarity helped put the pressure the Port needed to come to a settlement.

“I am glad to see so many of us energized and coming together around protecting Unit J’s right to just cause,” he said.