The Longshore Division of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) represents waterfront employees on the U.S. and Canadian Pacific Coast, Hawaii, and Alaska. Nearly 15,000 ILWU workers are employed at West Coast ports.
Longshore workers handle the loading and unloading of ships and barges, stuff and unstuff certain containers, handle lines, maintain stevedoring gear and perform many other activities. The Clerks process the cargo information for delivery and shipment. Walking bosses or Foremen are in charge of the loading and unloading operation and reporting to the stevedoring company superintendent.
PMA and ILWU collaborate on both coast-wide and local safety initiatives, resulting in record low accident rates in 2018.
The ILWU was formed in 1937, under the leadership of Harry Bridges, out of District 38 of the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA). James “Jimmy” R. Herman succeeded Harry Bridges in 1977 and served as the second president of the ILWU until 1991. Recent presidents include David Arian (1991-1994), Brian McWilliams (1994-2000), and James Spinosa (2000-2006).
In the summer of 2018, the ILWU held elections for key positions, including to replace retiring longtime President Bob McEllrath. The entire membership – approximately 42,000 workers spanning 60 locals in California, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, and Alaska – participated. Official results were announced in October of 2018, with William E. Adams elected as President.