Members of the Inlandboatmen’s Union of the Pacific (IBU), the ILWU’s Marine Division, won a significant settlement in October from Delta Western, an affiliate of Saltchuk Resources, Inc. Delta Western operates several west coast fuel docks, including a facility in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, — the remote location known to millions of Americans as home port for the “Deadliest Catch” television series. Delta-Western workers in “Dutch” voted to join the union in April, 2014.
But before winning that election, the Salchuk-owned company did everything possible to prevent workers from joining the union, and officials are now resisting efforts to negotiate a fair contract. Workers say the company has discriminated against the predominantly Filipino crew and repeatedly violated labor laws. Workers filed claims with the federal government last year against management for illegally retaliating and discriminating against members.
Settlement of those charges came roughly one year after Manolito “Mo” Reyes was unfairly terminated. As a result, Reyes will receive a settlement to compensate him for one year’s worth of lost wages. The settlement was signed by the company’s managers and approved by officials at the National Labor Relations Board. “When management fired me, my co-workers went on strike to protest Saltchuk’s conduct,” said Reyes. “Today, we succeeded in having managers clear my good name and restore the income that I lost.” In addition to paying Reyes, the company agreed to expunge the unfair discipline from his personnel file.
“This settlement confirms that Mo is a good worker and a good union man, who should not have been fired by the company,” said Leo Dacio, a coworker at the Dutch Harbor fuel dock.
Dacio says he has also faced retaliation and harassment for supporting the union, explaining that Saltchuk’s Delta-Western affiliate demoted him and cut his pay just months before they fired Reyes. At the same time, the company promoted two employees whoopposed the union and provided them extra pay for “housing expenses.”
As a condition of settling the federal charges, Salchuk agreed to promote Dacio with a raise and provide him with compensation for his lost wages. His personnel record will also be cleared of unfair entries. “This is a vindication,” said Robin Marquez, another employee. “We knew all along that Mo and Leo were unfairly disciplined, and now the public knows too.”
“This settlement is important, but what we want is respect on the job and a fair contract so we can take care of our families. This is a very hard job and it is really expensive to live here,” said employee Erwin Riodil. “All of us have been bargaining an agreement with the company, but they’ve slowed the process almost to a halt for months,” said fuel dock worker Art Guiang. “If management would have signed a fair contract with us, we could have used the new rules to resolve these issues.”
In addition to protesting the company’s repeated violations of labor rights, IBU members have identified a pattern of discrimination at Saltchuk’s Delta Western site in Dutch Harbor that has targeted Filipino-American and Asian-Pacific Islander American workers for termination, demotion, substandard work conditions and even a ban on speaking Tagalog on the job.
In March, eight members filed charges against the company with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
“Why does this Saltchuk company refuse to respect all members of the community?” asked Dacio. “All employees work hard to keep the company operations running smoothly and profitably, but management prevents us from doing our jobs by discriminating against Filipino-American and Asian-Pacific Islander American workers.”
“Regardless of a person’s race or ethnicity everyone should be treated equally especially in the workplace,” said Richard Gurtiza, Regional Director of IBU Region 37. “Anything less is an insult not only to the individual worker but for entire communities.”
Employees’ charges state that, among other violations of federal law, managers illegally discriminated on the basis of race, national origin and age by:
- Harassing and firing Reyes over a trumped-up safety issue;
- Offering better working conditions to white employees commuting from Anchorage to Dutch Harbor than were offered to Filipino- American and Asian-Pacific Islander American employees living and working locally; and;
- Ordering employees to stop speaking Tagalog to each other on the job and to speak only English.
“All that should matter to Delta Western and Saltchuk is that the best people for the job are hired and working well together,” said Riodil. “To harass, discipline, fire and try to prevent us from speaking casually shows an unacceptable practice of treating us as less valuable employees.”
“We ask all our brothers and sisters in the IBU and ILWU to stand with us in our fight against Saltchuk and Delta Western for an end to discrimination and a fair union contract,” said Dacio.
“Saltchuk won a ‘World’s Most Ethical Company’ award last year,” said Alan Coté, IBU President. “Let’s pull together all our strength and solidarity to back up these courageous members’ struggle to make this employer live up to that title.”
“Helping workers organize a union to win some justice has always been a struggle, and we’re committed to helping these Salchuk/Delta-Western workers to win their fight for respect,” said ILWU International Vice President (Mainland) Ray Familathe who oversees the union’s organizing campaigns.