When the world fastest sailboats – owned by some of the world’s richest men – come to the “Americas Cup” race in San Francisco during the summer of 2012 & 2013, ILWU members will probably hold many of the waterfront jobs.
A team effort
That’s because a framework agreement to secure ILWU jobs and jurisdiction was reached in April. The tentative victory happened because ILWU leaders in the Bay Area joined forces to approach America’s Cup organizers and local political leaders in a unified fashion with a clear strategy.
The group included Local 10 President Mike Villeggiante, Local 34 President Sean Farely, Local 75 President Jason Santana, Local 91 President Fred Gilliam, Local 6 Secretary-Treasurer Fred Pecker and IBU Regional Director Marina Secchitano – along with other officers and members.
“We worked closely with the International Organizing Department, who suggested an expert to help us navigate the local politics,” said Villeggiante, who joined other ILWU leaders at meetings with the Mayor, Board of Supervisors, City Department heads, Port Commissioners, race officials, and others.
ILWU members turned out in force to attend several meetings of the Port Commission and Board of Supervisors – which generated positive news coverage, and respect from decision-makers at the City, Port and America’s Cup. International Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams was involved at key points, and local leaders met every few weeks to share the latest news and plan their next moves.
Protecting maritime jobs
America’s Cup promoters initially wanted a huge event that promised massive private funding to renovate large sections of San Francisco’s historic waterfront – in exchange for getting free long-term development rights for the valuable waterfront property. Those plans fizzled after critics questioned the deal and the America’s Cup funding failed to materialize from corporate sponsors and wealthy donors. A smaller-scale racing event is now expected, but plans are still moving forward to secure space and build a new cruise terminal that will provide good jobs far into the future.
A learning process
“We learned a lot about the local political process and how to move an agenda for good jobs,” said Local 34 Vice President David Hill. Local 75 Secretary-Treasurer Patric Kim explained, “Plans for the sailboat race got scaled-back, but our top priority was also to protect ILWU jurisdiction on the waterfront. In the end, our team got an understanding that should secure dozens of ILWU jobs and also protect our jurisdiction.”
“I won’t be comfortable until all the contracts are signed and ILWU members are working at the America’s Cup, but right now I’m cautiously optimistic,” said Villeggiante.