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.