August 11, 1937 – Formation of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union

On this day, August 11, 1937, the the International Longshore and Warehouse Union formed. As Professor Erik Loomis writes in his excellent online history:

The ILWU would set the pace for how a leftist union could show leadership through the rest of the 1930s and well into the Cold War era when communist-led unions were being destroyed.”

He observes:

The ILWU became perhaps the most democratic union in the American labor movement, with most decisions made at the local level. Although never a particularly large union, it did a lot of solidarity work, helping to organize many other sectors of the economy, ranging from manufacturing work to the entertainment industry. It forced rank-and-file members to do most of the organizing, with the international only coming in later, which was quite opposite to the top-down professional organizing model quickly adopted by most unions.”

Today, as Wikipedia notes, the ILWU primarily represents dock workers on the West Coast of the United States, Hawaii, and in British Columbia, Canada. It also represents hotel workers in Hawaii, cannery workers in Alaska, warehouse workers throughout the West and bookstore workers in Portland, Oregon. In all, it represents some 42,000 members in over 60 local unions.

This newspaper briefly served as the official communications organ for West Coast longshoremen.

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