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Dockworkers in America

Summary and Keywords

The history of dockworkers in America is as fascinating and important as it is unfamiliar. Those who worked along the shore loading and unloading ships played an invaluable role in an industry central to both the U.S. and global economies as well as the making of the nation. For centuries, their work remained largely the same, involving brute manual labor in gangs; starting in the 1960s, however, their work was entirely remade due to technological transformation. Dockworkers possess a long history of militancy, resulting in dramatic improvements in their economic and workplace conditions. Today, nearly all are unionists, but dockworkers in ports along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts belong to the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA), while the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) represents them in Pacific Coast ports as well as in Hawaii and Alaska (along with British Columbia and Panama). In the mid-1930s, the ILA and ILWU became bitter rivals and remain so. This feud, which has cooled slightly since its outset, can be explained by differences in leadership, ideology, and tactics, with the ILA more craft-based, “patriotic,” and mainstream and the ILWU quite left wing, especially during its first few decades, and committed to fighting for racial equality. The existence of two unions complicates this story; in most countries, dockworkers belong to a single union. Similarly, America’s massive economy and physical size means that there are literally dozens of ports (again, unlike many other countries), making generalizations harder. Unfortunately, popular culture depictions of dockworkers inculcate unfair and incorrect notions that all dockworkers are involved with organized crime. Nevertheless, due to decades of militancy, strikes, and unionism, dockworkers in 21st-century America are—while far fewer in number—very well paid and still do important work, literally making world trade possible in an era when 90 percent of goods move by ship for at least part of their journey to market.

Keywords: Casualization, containerization, dockworkers, labor, longshoremen, maritime, precarious, strikes, unions, working class

Traditional Dock Work

For thousands of years, dockworkers loaded and unloaded cargo in much the same way. Thus, the first workers to load and unload goods from colonial ports on the Atlantic seaboard toiled as had workers in London, Marseilles, or Istanbul. Although some technological improvements and changes in hiring methods occurred, it is striking how little dock work changed until the 1960s. Be it the 1750s or 1930s, longshoring traditionally was defined by: backbreaking manual labor, gang labor, dangerous conditions, an oppressive hiring system, and the casual nature of work. Perhaps ironically, the collective nature of the work, its dangers, and the clear lines drawn between workers and employers generated tremendous militancy and solidarity among dockworkers, who, until recently, were entirely male. Since many waterfront jobs did not require tremendous skill, and U.S. port cities experienced soaring, increasingly heterogeneous populations, huge labor surpluses generally existed. This large, diverse supply of laborers translated into low wages and a divided workforce, making organizing much more challenging. When unions developed in the 20th century, initially they were localized and weak. Nevertheless, longshoremen repeatedly organized and, port by port, formed stronger coastal unions.

Shipping and port cities have changed so drastically in the past few generations—both driven by containerization—that a contemporary reader must be reminded of what industrial port cities looked like in earlier times. Ernest Poole, winner of the first Pulitzer Prize for fiction, described this world in his 1915 novel The Harbor: “There stretches a deafening reign of cobblestones and asphalt over which trucks by thousands go clattering each day. There are long lines of freight cars here and snorting locomotives. Along the shore side are many saloons, a few cheap decent little hotels and some that are far from decent. And along the water side is a solid line of docksheds” with many “finger piers” extending outward several hundred feet off the shore. Generally the oldest part of port cities—be it New York or London, San Francisco or Hamburg, New Orleans or Cape Town—waterfronts combined the maritime trades, many commercial enterprises, warehouses, manufacturing, as well as residential areas where longshoremen and other workers connected to marine transport lived and shopped, ate and drank. Hence, the “sailortown”—a nickname for the waterfront area of a city—in 1850s San Francisco shared much in common with Marseilles in the 1920s. Again, Poole painted a colorful picture of the New York waterfront in this now-bygone era:

For in this long sea station, under blue arc-lights, in boxes, barrels, crates, and bags, tumbling, banging, crashing, came the products of this modern land. You could feel the pulse of a continent here. From the factories, the mines and mills, the prairies and the forests, the plantations and the vineyards, there flowed a mighty tide of things—endlessly, both day and night—you could shut your eyes and see the long brown lines of cars crawl eastward from all over the land, you could see the stuff converging here to be gathered into coarse rope nets and swept up to the liners. The pulse beat fast and furious. In gangs at every hatchway you saw men heaving, sweating, you heard them swearing, panting. That day they worked straight through the night. For the pulse kept beating, beating, and the ship must sail on time!

If one removed the trucks and trains, Poole could have been talking about 18th-century New York. Poole’s final sentence still defines shipping and the entire transportation industry, now called the global supply chain, or logistics.1

Longshoremen became renowned for the great strength demanded to handle the heavy and varied commodities they lifted, loaded, assembled into slings and onto pallets, carried, pushed, and unloaded. Their pride was understandable, given that they hauled five-hundred-pound sacks of coffee, cotton, flour, sugar, and other commodities.

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Figure 1. Stevedores on a New York dock loading barrels of corn syrup onto a barge on the Hudson River, c. 1912.

Photo by Lewis Hine. National Archives and Records Administration, 518287.

They carried loads up and down steep ladders into and out of the holds of ships that might be rolling on the edge of a stormy sea, during a rainstorm, or at night. While every commodity offered unique challenges, wet hides might have been the most disgusting, as San Francisco longshoreman Reg Theriault vividly described:

Hides came from the hide house folded into a bundle with the hair in and slimy side out, sort of loosely tied together with a string. Frequently they were crawling with maggots. To protect the hide from the maggots a scoop of manure from the steer was shoved onto the center of the skin before it was folded and tied. On the voyage overseas the maggots ate the manure and not the hides. It saved the leather, but it did not make the hides much fun to pick up.

Hence, along with brute strength and the skill to safely and efficiently load endless different commodities into every unique hold, dockworkers were forced to possess strong stomachs. Again, longshore labor remained quite similar, over time, whether it was working timber in colonial Boston, cotton in antebellum New Orleans, or newsprint in 20th-century Seattle.2

Dock work ranked among the nation’s most dangerous occupations, with injuries incredibly common and death a possibility on any and every shift. In 1934, testimony before the (U.S.) National Longshoremen’s Board reported that a quarter of workers were injured the previous year and an eighth suffered accidents that forced them out of work for at least a week. Charles Barnes, author of the first academic analysis of American dockworkers, concluded, “It is probable that there is no other heavy physical work which is accompanied with so much overtime and such long stretches of toil without interruption. Even steel mills do not require the extreme length of working hours found on the piers.” In the single-worst longshore accident in U.S. history, 320 men in the U.S. Navy, including 202 African American dockworkers, were blown up while loading ammunition at Port Chicago, north of Oakland, in 1944. How did dockworkers deal with the ever-present danger? As Barnes wrote, “it is a matter of pride with the longshoreman that he should not show fear nor evade necessary danger.” Another response was gallows humor, as displayed by one New York foreman: “That’s what’s the matter with a good many boys on the docks. Their wives are always becoming widders [widows] and I don’t know anything that can annoy a man more.” Linking the dangers faced by dockworkers with a critique of capitalism, Jack Walsh, an organizer for the radical Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) on the Philadelphia waterfront, complained, “plenty [accidents happen] to the longshoremen. It is quite a dangerous job. Of course, that don’t count. Men are cheap.”3

Another core component of dock work was its irregular or “casual” nature, causing many to struggle to make ends meet. Work varied greatly from season to season due to the inherently erratic reality of weather and economies. A dockworker might unload a ship and then not work for another week, month, or even longer. The Maritime Crisis, published in San Francisco in 1936 by the International Longshoremen’s Association, described traditional conditions: “Longshoremen were hired on the docks, and the Embarcadero [street running along the water’s edge] was known as the ‘slave mart.’ Men hung around the docks all day, often in the rain, and then received two or three hours’ work in the late afternoon—if they received anything.” Historian David Selvin concluded, “Irregular job distribution—feast and famine, side by side—was inherent in longshore employment.” So while the hourly wage might be decent for manual laborers, getting sufficient and consistent hours proved difficult.4

Labor surpluses defined the industry, drove down wages, made organizing strikes and unions harder, and opened hiring to tremendous abuses. Dock work demanded impressive skills—most notably, fitting endlessly varied cargoes into different sized holds, and doing so in a way that allowed the ship to remain balanced—but, at its essence, required a strong back. Fortunately for employers, millions of men proved willing and able. Large-scale immigration and migration of rural Americans to cities generally guaranteed labor surpluses for employers in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. Predictably, economic downturns like the Great Depression sent unemployment skyrocketing, making dock work even more precarious. Frank P. Foisie, head of labor relations for Seattle shippers, testified in 1934, “the waterfront is ‘the scapegoat of competitive industry’—the dumping ground of human surplusage from all other industries and the last refuge of the down-and-outer.”5

Combined with the vagaries of the boom-bust cycle of market economies, an oppressive and hated hiring method, called the “shape-up” or “shape,” had defined the industry since colonial times. In most ports, two to three times every day, in designated locations along the waterfront, thousands of men crowded around hiring bosses. Jobseekers often lined up in a semicircle around the head of the pier, additional men behind the first row, with the hiring boss in the middle proceeding to select individuals for the shift.

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Figure 2. The Shape-Up. Those wishing to be hired crowded around hiring bosses hoping to be selected. The system invited corruption and favoritism.

Courtesy of ILWU via FoundSF.

Ernest Poole described a typical shape: “the figures of dockers appear, more and more . . . Soon there were crowds of thousands, and as stevedores there began bawling out names, gang after gang of men stepped forward, until at last the chosen throngs went marching in past the timekeepers.” Those in charge of hiring often picked friends, those with whom they shared traits (ethnicity, race, religion, etc.), or those willing to “kickback” wages; that is, bribe the hiring boss. Dockworkers hated the shape-up as much as employers benefited from it. One San Francisco longshoreman testified at a 1934 federal hearing:

We have been hired off the streets like a bunch of sheep, standing there from 6 o’clock in the morning, in all kinds of weather; at the moment of 8 o’clock, we were herded along the street by the police to allow the commuters to go across the street from the Ferry Building, more or less like a slave market in some of the Old World countries of Europe.

When dockworkers struck and unionized, generally they demanded eliminating the shape.6

Once hired, dockers labored in gangs of ten to twenty, contributing to their collective identity. Typically, multiple gangs worked a single ship, so that there might be 150 men laboring at one time. Work frequently was done in pairs, as Sidney Roger, who worked for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), explained, “no longshoreman works alone.” On the West Coast, many ILWU longshoremen had “regular partners” who worked together, exclusively, sometimes for years; it was not uncommon to refuse a job if one’s partner was not also dispatched. Further, dangerous workplaces often encourage workers to see each other as family. These traits proved key factors in the rise of unions and, once unionized, led dockworkers to act with fierce solidarity. In essence, the nature of the work inculcated a collective identity and deep bonds, similar to what is found in the mining industry.7

Going back centuries, dockworkers were unusually cosmopolitan, knowing much more about the world than most other people, often turning their on-the-job educations into political beliefs and actions. The nature of marine transport—moving goods, people, and information—explains why dockworkers (and sailors) are so worldly, often more so than people with greater wealth or more formal education. For instance, historians Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker wrote about 17th- and 18th-century dockworkers and sailors, a veritable motley crew from countless cultures around the Atlantic world, some of who participated in revolutionary and egalitarian struggles throughout the early modern Atlantic world. Similarly, Paul A. Gilje demonstrates that longshoremen and sailors—whose occupational lives often overlapped—became deeply involved in the Revolutionary War and identified with its ideals; of course, they did so for themselves as well as on behalf of larger causes. Gilje, Linebaugh, and Rediker build upon the work of earlier historians, most notably Jesse Lemisch, who highlighted how “Jack Tars” were political actors, very much so. Fast-forwarding to the 20th century, San Francisco longshoreman Eric Hoffer, nicknamed the “longshoreman philosopher” for publishing ten books and countless articles, kept a journal in which he described: working ships from Germany, Chile, Japan, Norway, and elsewhere; meeting sailors from Sweden, the Philippines, and so many other lands; unloading coffee from Colombia, hides from New Zealand, copra (coconut meat) from the South Pacific, and so on. Dockworkers had access to information and people who traveled the literal seven seas and, hence, often interpreted their lives, work, and world through a global lens. Often, they became internationalist in thought and, occasionally, deed—not working ships in solidarity with strikers or to protest another country’s political regime (San Francisco dockworkers, for example, refused to unload cargo from South Africa to protest apartheid). While not all dockers were political or internationalist, their propensity to think in such manners is remarkable.8

Gender, Ethnicity, and Race

Traditionally, the terms stevedore and longshoreman were interchangeable, although, over time, stevedore became anachronistic, despite its recent use in the acclaimed HBO show The Wire. Peculiarly, stevedore also could refer to employers who hired dockworkers on behalf of shipping agents and companies. In addition, while the most commonly used term in the United States remains longshoreman, the gender-neutral term longshore worker has been used more frequently since the 1990s.

Historically, U.S. dockworkers were all male, which typified maritime work (including seafarers and shipbuilders) for centuries and millennia across the globe.

Dockworkers in AmericaClick to view larger

Figure 3. John George Brown, “The Longshoremen’s Noon,” 1879. Dockworkers formed tight bonds with each other—partially due to their collective work but also because of its all-male nature and homosocial space.

National Gallery of Art, Corcoran Collection, 2014.136.2.

As in many other occupations and cultures, men identified dock work as “manly” because it was physically hard, quite dangerous, and exclusively male. Sociologist Jake Alimahomed-Wilson’s description of the ports of Los Angeles-Long Beach in recent times applies equally to ports stretching back to colonial America and beyond: “the industry, waterfront, and union local were thus shaped and influenced exclusively by and for men. The male-dominated longshore industry, along with the union local, was thereby defined within this exclusionary masculinist context.” William W. Pilcher, an anthropologist and former longshoreman, explored dockworker manliness, including how the all-male Portland waterfront workforce made fun of each other based upon one’s masculinity or lack thereof. Pilcher suggested that the rough manner of talking with co-workers proved central to the creation of a tightly knit occupational community and built trust among partners who literally put their lives into their fellow workers’ hands. In recent years, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) has undertaken some effort to bring women into the field; in 2014, this union created a short video called “Women of the Waterfront” and has undertaken some efforts to ensure equal treatment among the sexes in the union and on jobsites.

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Figure 4. Woman Lasher, ILWU, c. 2015.

Courtesy of ILWU Archives, Anne Rand Research Library, International Longshore and Warehouse Union, San Francisco.

Of course, the fact that the waterfront was entirely male did not mean gender did not matter.9

Longshoremen, like other sectors of the U.S. working class, were at least as diverse as the middle and upper classes—generally far more so. That dockworkers were a very diverse lot was no coincidence. Waterfront employers, similar to other bosses, sought greater control over their laborers by creating diverse workplaces and then encouraging ethnic and racial conflict among workers. First, hiring bosses (all of whom, essentially, were white) regularly hired dockworkers based upon their ethnicity, nationality, or race.

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Figure 5. Unloading cotton from a steamboat, c. 1900, possibly New Orleans. In southern and Gulf ports, much of this work was performed by African American men.

Creative Commons License, CC0.

The antebellum South was somewhat different, as Michael D. Thompson’s work on Charleston demonstrates, for employers relied heavily on African American slaves. Once men were hired, gangs often were composed exclusively of a single ethnic or racial group. For instance, W. E. B. Du Bois noted that Philadelphia workers labored in segregated groups in most, if not all, of the city’s workplaces; his findings apply to the rest of America in the 19th century and early decades of the 20th century. Gangs were not only all-black or all-white but, often, ethnically homogeneous. John Quinn, an Irish American who worked on the Philadelphia waterfront in the early 20th century, recalled, “It was not uncommon that the gangs would be pitted against each other, white against black, Irish against the Polish. It made no difference to the companies.” These ethnic and racial divisions often resulted in lower wages (since workers competed against each other) and made it harder for workers to organize strikes or unions.10

The policies and practices of the ILWU and International Longshoreman’s Association (ILA) reveal serious tensions over race. The ILA allowed African Americans into the union—a relatively progressive move compared to many other craft unions in the early and mid-20th century—but generally segregated black longshoremen, an unsurprising practice since the ILA belonged to the American Federation of Labor (AFL), with many member-unions that entirely excluded black workers. By contrast, the ILWU committed itself to racial inclusion and equality from its inception in the 1930s, and, not surprisingly, joined the AFL’s rival, the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). ILWU Local 10, representing longshoremen in the San Francisco Bay Area, and its largest local for decades, opened its ranks to blacks at its birth and became increasingly more diverse over time, so much so that, by the late 1960s, it possessed a black majority. However, other ILWU locals, most notably Local 13 in Los Angeles and Local 8 in Portland, Oregon, resisted opening membership to blacks. Overall, though, the ILWU record on this front is relatively strong, especially considering how this union also actively recruited the overwhelmingly non-white Hawaiian longshoremen. In recent decades, ILWU locals with more troublesome racial histories have improved, as have ILA locals, especially in Southern and Gulf ports where African Americans make up the majority. Today, on gender, the ILA retains “Longshoremen” in its name while the ILWU made its name gender-neutral (“Longshore”) with a resolution—approved, unanimously—at its 1997 convention.11

Dockworkers since the 1960s: The Container Era

Since the 1960s, the introduction of shipping containers has been integral to the dramatic growth of the global economy and has utterly remade dock work. Seeking larger profits, and with significant support from the U.S. Navy and other governmental agencies, shipping corporations introduced a new technological process, called containerization, in which ever-larger cranes load and unload standardized twenty- and forty-foot metal boxes holding cargo packed far away from the waterfront. In the 1950s, shipping firms collaborated with university engineers and business professors—underwritten by the navy’s Office of Naval Research—to develop this technology as summarized by UCLA researchers Wytze Gorter and George H. Hildebrand: “Handling costs are low because the cargoes can be transferred by mechanical methods requiring very little labor.” Later, economist Marc Levinson brilliantly summarized the profound impacts of containers, “The container made shipping cheap, and by doing so changed the shape of the world economy.” He also described the new, more seamless system for shipping freight around the world:

A 25-ton container of coffeemakers can leave a factory in Malaysia, be loaded aboard a ship, and cover the 9,000 miles to Los Angeles in 16 days. A day later, the container is on a unit train to Chicago, where it is transferred immediately to a truck headed for Cincinnati. The 11,000-mile trip from the factory gate to the Ohio warehouse can take as little as 22 days, a rate of 500 miles per day, at a cost lower than that of a single first-class air ticket. More than likely, no one has touched the contents or even opened the container, along the way.

As a result, “In the decade after the container first came into international use, in 1966, the volume of international trade in manufactured goods grew more than twice as fast as the volume of global manufacturing production, and two and a half times as fast as global economic output.” Importantly, the work became less physically demanding and somewhat less dangerous, but containerization also resulted in a huge decrease in dockworkers. Dockworkers found themselves in the “eye of the storm” of modern capitalism as their industry experienced rapid automation.12

Not coincidentally, containerization caused massive layoffs and weakened unions across the planet, though most survived and their members, in many nations, now earn higher wages. According to Lincoln Fairley, International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) director of research, by the late 1970s the “estimated handling rate in terms of tons per hour” rose to about twenty times greater than in the pre-container era. Not surprisingly, shipping firms shifted rapidly to containers. Fairley reported that West Coast container tonnage exploded from 494,000 tons in 1960 to 8,743,415 tons in 1970, while non-containerized cargo plummeted to less than 15 percent of the total. Containerized tonnage increased at a similarly incredible pace in the 1970s and beyond. As productivity soared along with shipping companies’ profits, the number of dockworkers plummeted. Germain Bulcke, an important, early ILWU leader, explained in 1983, “The waterfront employers have not added men for quite a number of years, and what’s happening is that our membership is going down. For example, in my last term as president of Local 10, we had 5800 members [late 1940s]. At the present time we are down to 1800.” In the 2010s, Local 10 has more like a thousand members. In every port, the process has resulted in the same consequence: massive declines in dockworkers. This trend has been lamented by dockworkers, both for themselves and for future generations who never will find waterfront employment. The United States Maritime Administration, in contrast, coldly summarized the impact: “Overall, the single most important aspect of the container revolution has been the changing of the maritime industry from a labor-intensive to a capital-intensive one.” Perhaps curiously, however, dockworkers still command significant power, in part due to their vital role in the global economy as well as their long traditions of militancy and organizing.13

International Longshoremen’s Association

Founded in 1892, the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) remains the dominant union on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Its long existence confirms the commitment and strength of its members, but the ILA has also, through its actions and shaped by popular culture, contributed to the perception of dockworkers and unions generally as corrupt. There have only been seven ILA presidents in 120 years, including “Lifetime President” Joseph P. Ryan from 1927 to 1963. The union’s self-proclaimed conservatism and “patriotism” has been an ILA hallmark, particularly among its New York City leadership. The ILA frequently clashed with leftist insurgents within its ranks, and with the rival International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU).

The ILA did not originate in New York City, the nation’s largest port, but rather the Great Lakes. In the mid-19th century, longshoremen started organizing, albeit locally and episodically. Beginning with the opening of the Erie Canal in the 1820s, the lakes developed numerous ports shipping bulk commodities such as grain, copper, iron ore, and lumber. Dan Keefe, a tugboat worker, founded the Association of Lumber Handlers in Chicago, the nation’s largest interior port. The union spread throughout the Great Lakes region, and, in 1892, representatives from eleven ports formed the National Longshoremen’s Association. After the organization of Canadian ports, the union renamed itself the International Longshoremen’s Association. From the start, Keefe organized workers into locals based upon skill and cargo; that is, lumber handler, checker, et cetera. Such craft unionism fit the emerging “business union” model of the American Federation of Labor (AFL), which the ILA joined in 1895.

Dockworkers in AmericaClick to view larger

Figure 6. ILA logo.

United States Department of Labor.

The union spread to the Atlantic coast, sometimes forming new locals and, other times absorbing existing unions as its membership increased to a hundred thousand. The most important incorporation occurred in 1913 with the fifty thousand members of the Longshoremen Union’s Protective Association (LUPA) in New York City, credited as the nation’s first longshore union, established in 1864; similarly, what became the ILA’s Charleston and Norfolk, Virginia, locals originated among black longshoremen in the 19th century.

Keefe and his successor, T. V. O’Connor, steered the union clear of the many radical currents of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The ILA remained aloof from the eight-hour struggles of 1886 (despite longshoremen regularly working twelve-, twenty-four-, even thirty-six-hour shifts) and industrial unionism (promoted by the Knights of Labor and, later, the Industrial Workers of the World [IWW]), and rarely castigated employers or capitalism. For instance, in 1907, the still-independent New York City longshore union undertook a mammoth strike beginning on May Day, even though the nation officially celebrated Labor Day on the first Monday in September; many Italian longshoremen in Brooklyn embraced socialist ideals. For six weeks, tens of thousands struck for higher pay. This strike was also noteworthy for its rank-and-file driven nature, uniting Irish, Italian, German, African American, and others, if only temporarily. Similarly, in October 1919, New York longshoremen took their cargo hooks and walked off the waterfront, striking for raises after suffering through the World War I years, when inflation soared by 50 percent. Massive discontent resulted in more than fifty thousand longshoremen striking and tens of thousands of other workers joining. This strike, among the largest in U.S. maritime history, idled more than six hundred ships and lasted more than a month. As in 1907, the rank and file drove the strike while conservative leadership desperately tried to convince members to return to work. In the aftermath of this ultimately failed strike, growing corruption and gangsterism riddled the New York City waterfront before spreading to others controlled by the ILA, including Philadelphia.14

While the ILA initially excluded African Americans and discriminated against some European immigrants, the association increasingly turned to organizing them, notably African Americans in Southern ports where many toiled, albeit in segregated gangs (as they had in the 19th century) and locals. Racism was the norm in U.S. workplaces, not just in the South, with black workers either denied entry or segregated and demeaned when hired. In Southern ports, the reality of huge numbers of able-bodied, poor black men made not including them a recipe for union failure. Hence, the ILA organized black longshoremen, generally in all-black locals. Black workers were treated better in the ILA than many other unions, if only due to pragmatism. Eric Arnesen described the ILA as relatively progressive, especially considering the horrors of Jim Crow, particularly in New Orleans, where biracialism lingered far longer than elsewhere. Black longshoremen fought against racism within the ranks, including the New York City leadership—and still do. The ILA was not only riven by racial divides but also by ethnic ones, and ethnic conservatism has been an ILA hallmark, particularly in its Irish American–dominated, New York–based leadership.15

The ILA frequently clashed with left-wing unions. In the 1910s and 1920s, the IWW competed with the ILA, particularly in Philadelphia, one of the nation’s largest ports and the last major one to join the ILA. In the 1930s, Communists challenged the ILA in many ports. Most significantly, in the mid-1930s, West Coast longshoremen attacked the ILA for being too conservative and anti-democratic, and for opposing the industrial unionism and ethnic/racial inclusivity of America’s new labor federation, the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). Pacific Coast longshoremen left the ILA and formed the ILWU, creating a bitter rivalry that exists to this day. The ILA also boasts of being patriotic; the “history” section on its website begins with one member declaring that “ILA means ‘I Love America.’”

During and after World War II, the shipping industry boomed, to the benefit of the increasingly large membership, though the ILA faced new challenges. First, the union came under attack for rampant corruption by both the New York state and federal governments and in the media. While the ILA consistently denied such charges, it did not help the union’s cause that Joseph P. Ryan was “Lifetime President.” Historian Colin Davis wrote, “The murderous image of the mobster and union officials was based on a violent reality . . . longshoremen both obtained employment and worked in an atmosphere of fear and intimidation.” Subsequently, in 1953, the AFL suspended the ILA and created the International Brotherhood of Longshoremen. Simultaneously, Hollywood director Elia Kazan made the legendary film On the Waterfront, set in Hoboken, New Jersey, across the Hudson River from Manhattan. This film, as much as the government investigations, helped solidify in American minds that all unions, if especially longshore unions, were corrupt. Eventually, the AFL rival was folded into the ILA and joined the merged AFL-CIO in 1959.16

Although the ILWU pushed to eliminate the shape-up and won a hiring hall with union dispatchers in 1934, the ILA did not seek to eliminate the shape-up; in fact, the leadership benefited from it. According to Bruce Nelson, the shape “swelled the number of union members, kept their dues flowing into the ILA treasury, and offered ILA officials numerous ways to pad their pockets via kickbacks and other forms of graft.” Hence, Atlantic and Gulf Coast longshoremen suffered under this casual labor regime thirty years longer than their West Coast counterparts.17

The other challenge the ILA faced after 1960 was containerization. ILA president Teddy Gleason prioritized saving jobs, particularly fighting to make sure gang sizes remained large, but refused to come to an agreement with employers, unlike the ILWU; simultaneously, the lack of a formal agreement “allowed” repeated rank-and-file “wildcat” strikes to pressure employers to come to terms. Ultimately, the ILA negotiated “Rules on Containers” that dictated ILA members must do the work of loading and unloading containers, even away from the port, within a fifty-mile radius; despite “convincing” employers, federal judges overturned such provisions. Gleason’s ILA also negotiated the Guaranteed Annual Income program and other measures to secure the protection of current members and ensure that dockworkers gained some financial benefits—namely, a small but significant “royalty”—on every container worked.18

Today, the ILA remains strong along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. While workers in many industries have lost their unions and/or seen massive cuts in wages and benefits, the ILA holds on—albeit with far fewer members. However, it remains dogged by charges of corruption, including from the Longshore Workers Coalition, a rank-and-file group that seeks to democratize the ILA from within along with promoting racial equality. As the economy becomes more automated and globalized, the ILA fights to hold onto the economic benefits delivered to its members, through strong rank-and-file loyalty to a centralized, top-down union structure.

International Longshore and Warehouse Union

Despite its small size, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) has played an outsized role in U.S. labor history. Founded amidst an upsurge of militancy in the 1930s, the ILWU organized dockworkers along the Pacific Coast. Building upon its members’ strength and solidarity, the union organized warehouse workers dockside and far from the waterfront. Headquartered in San Francisco and with a leftist leadership and base, the ILWU commanded great loyalty and has been among the most committed unions to racial inclusivity. Today, the ILWU remains one of the country’s stronger unions, proud of its heritage and still relatively militant, involved in the labor and other social movements.

In 1933 in San Francisco, then the West’s leading port, longshoremen revived a coast-wide charter from the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) and led a historic strike that birthed a new union. The ILA had been driven off the San Francisco waterfront and the entire Pacific Coast in the aftermath of a failed strike in 1919. In May 1934, after employers refused ILA demands, a historic coast-wide maritime walkout began, still known as the “Big Strike.” Emerging from a group of Communist and other radical rank-and-filers in San Francisco came Australian-born Harry Bridges, who joined the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in the early 1920s and worked closely with Communists in the 1930s. On July 5, two strikers were killed near the San Francisco waterfront. Now known as “Bloody Thursday,” the event sparked a mammoth general strike that shut down the city for four days. Along the coast, six workers were killed by police and company “security” guards as violence also broke out in Portland, Seattle, and San Pedro (the port of Los Angeles). During the strike, the longshoremen built solidarity with other marine crafts, notably striking sailors, and created the Maritime Federation of the Pacific, which united workers from many waterborne trades. Under the leadership of President Franklin Roosevelt, the most pro-worker president the United States had seen up until that point, and Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins, the first female cabinet member, the federal government pressured employers to negotiate. Ultimately, the strikers won, gaining a significant wage increase and reduced hourly shifts. The strikers also won a union-controlled hiring hall that eliminated the hated shape-up and partially decasualized their work; henceforth, union members reported to their hiring hall where union dispatchers (elected annually in each local) distributed jobs on a “low man out” system; that is, the worker with the fewest hours worked that quarter got first pick of jobs available that shift. They also won a coast-wide contract that prevented ports from “scabbing” on each other. Veterans of the Big Strike came to be known as “’34 men,” while Bloody Thursday remains an annual holiday, enshrined in the union’s master contract and commemorated with events.

The longshoremen built upon this victory by organizing more workers and making greater demands. West Coast longshoremen soon split from the ILA-American Federation of Labor (AFL), which was viewed as too conservative, unwisely committed to craft unionism, and anti-democratic. Instead, the newly created ILWU embraced industrial unionism and ethnic/racial inclusivity; the ILWU immediately joined the nation’s new labor federation, the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), and played an important role in it. Also in the late 1930s, the ILWU, building upon its waterfront strength, started organizing warehouse workers, who stored and transported goods delivered to and from the docks. Brutal battles broke out between the ILWU and the ILA and Teamsters. The ILWU called this organizing drive “the march inland,” and it proved quite successful, as the W in the union’s name suggests.

Dockworkers in AmericaClick to view larger

Figure 7. ILWU logo and motto.

Courtesy of ILWU.

During the late 1930s and early 1940s, the ILWU became a powerful union with contracts that paid well and guaranteed union power in hiring and other work-related areas. In the 1940s and 1950s, the ILWU expanded to the Hawaiian Islands; first dockworkers and then, notably, agricultural workers, all of whom were Asian American. As the dockworkers’ power grew, their earnings and conditions improved, transforming them from “wharf rats” into “lords of the docks.”

Despite or perhaps because of these major gains, maritime employers detested the ILWU and took advantage of the union’s noted leftist orientation to attack the union and its president during the emerging post–WWII Red Scare. Hundreds if not thousands of rank and filers were accused of being Communists, but none more so than Harry Bridges, the union’s much-loved longtime leader. Bridges was repeatedly condemned by employers and government officials for being a Communist and lying about it in order to become a naturalized citizen. Bridges went through five lengthy federal trials in twenty years and was found innocent each time. Commenting on Bridges’s cases in 1945, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Frank Murphy declared, “The record in this case will stand forever as a monument of man’s intolerance to man.”19

In 1948, employers gambled that anti-communist sentiment would be sufficient to destroy the ILWU and refused to negotiate with the union, provoking the longest strike since 1934. Employment lawyer and business leader J. Paul St. Sure later recalled, “the ’48 strike was based upon the public position taken by the maritime industry that it would no longer, or could no longer, do business with Communists, with Mr. Bridges.” To the dismay of employers, West Coast longshoremen remained steadfast in their commitment to the union and leadership and won that strike. In the aftermath, employers decided upon a “new look” and reorganized themselves into the Pacific Maritime Association led by St. Sure, who initiated a more conciliatory approach to the ILWU.20

The Cold War forced many left-leaning organizations onto the defensive. The ILWU, along with other left-wing CIO unions, was purged for refusing to cast out their Communist members. The ILWU stood by its radical members while most unions caved to McCarthyism. The commitment to solidarity, regardless of racial or political identities, explains the union’s stance. However, being a small union outside of the mainstream labor movement—the AFL and CIO merged in 1955—weakened the ILWU.

The “containerization” that emerged in the 1950s reshaped the ILWU, but differently than the ILA. Seeing no alternative to this technological change (employers, in particular, pushed the “can’t fight progress” notion), and in contrast to the ILA approach, in 1960 the ILWU signed the historic Mechanization and Modernization agreement (M&M) with employers, the first dock union in the world to do so. In accepting the inevitability of change, the union sought to protect all current workers by guaranteeing their job security, essentially trading future workforce reductions for immediate concessions. Essentially, Bridges and other supporters of M&M advocated that workers get their “share of the machine”—namely, wage increases and other material benefits, including early retirements—in exchange for accepting containers rather than resisting them, as the ILA chose to do. Curiously, employers hailed Bridges—the longtime left-wing radical—for being a forward-thinking, accommodating labor leader. This change dramatically weakened the union’s bargaining position, however, and a significant minority of members fiercely opposed the union’s concessions.

Dockworkers in AmericaClick to view larger

Figure 8. Cartoon from the ILWU newsletter, The Dispatcher. Workers understandably feared that containerization would cause massive job losses.

Courtesy of ILWU Archives, Anne Rand Research Library, International Longshore and Warehouse Union, San Francisco.

This conflict finally exploded during contract negotiations in 1971 and caused the longest strike in ILWU history. Ultimately, the nature of marine transport was irrevocably altered—as was the dominant West Coast port, with Los Angeles-Long Beach supplanting the San Francisco Bay Area.

To this day, ILWU members remain proud and militant, and continue to act on behalf of international social justice struggles. In 1984, in a culmination of several decades of anti-apartheid activism, the union refused to unload South African cargo from a ship. In 1999, dockworkers in every West Coast port stopped work to protest the World Trade Organization, then meeting in Seattle. On May Day 2008, another stoppage was staged to protest the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The ILWU continues to hold some power, believes its brand of unionism to be more democratic and progressive than others, and strives to pull the U.S. labor movement—and other social movements—with it, in the tradition of the 1930s social-labor activism from which it was founded.

Discussion of the Literature

There has been something of a lull in scholarship after some rich work by historians including Eric Arnesen, Colin Davis, Bruce Nelson, and Calvin Winslow, as well as by sociologists such as Howard Kimeldorf and David T. Wellman and labor geographer Andrew Herod. From the late 1980s through these early 2000s, these scholars opened up new ground on dockworkers in multiple ports and the main unions. Arnesen and Nelson, in particular, examined traditions of cross-race organizing among dockworkers in New Orleans and the San Francisco Bay Area, thereby suggesting that workers in this industry, a diverse lot, had managed better than many other U.S. workers to join forces across ethnic and racial divides. Nelson, in his second major book on dockworkers, “walked back” some of his conclusions about the racial progressivism of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) by highlighting how, unlike the San Francisco local, the Los Angeles local had a long history of actively resisting black inclusion. Davis, Kimeldorf, and Nelson all contrasted the relatively progressive record of the ILWU with longstanding racism in the International Longshoreman’s Association (ILA), especially in the mega port of New York. Peter Cole sought to join and shift this discussion by examining the organization of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)—what might have been the most effective and racially egalitarian U.S. dock union ever—in World War I–era Philadelphia. Another area in need of further work is longshore work in the colonial era and 19th century. Paul A. Gilje has written some important books on the 18th and 19th centuries, though dockworkers generally take a back seat to sailors. Michael D. Thompson’s 2015 book on antebellum dockworkers in Charleston is a welcome addition.

Nearly all of these studies focus upon a single port or, at most, two ports. This approach is perfectly comprehensible given the uniqueness of every port and the rigors involved in writing social history; however, engaging in such in-depth case studies risks making it harder to generalize, a necessary and important step in the pursuit of knowledge and truth. U.S. historians have also lagged behind in looking beyond America for useful and even necessary comparisons to other ports, with Colin Davis’s book on New York and London breaking new ground. Another important exception is Cole’s recent work comparing dockworkers in the San Francisco Bay Area and Durban, South Africa.

Moreover, the case study approach to U.S. dock work has hindered drawing larger conclusions, which is unfortunate as dock work in the United States shares much in common with ports around the world. Reading many U.S. historians, one is hard pressed to find references to non-American ports, despite the tremendous similarities in the working experiencing, including the industry’s casual nature. By contrast, European labor historians have done better at engaging dock labor comparatively and transnationally. Most importantly, Sam Davies and others associated with the Amsterdam-based International Institute of Social History convened a conference and then published an extensive two-volume collection entitled Dock Workers. In that book’s introduction, Davies and Klaus Weinhauer argued that “this important occupational group” should be “considered in a comparative fashion on an international scale.” While many scholars in that anthology investigated specific ports, the volumes also explored themes general to many if not all ports; for instance, in relation to casual and precarious labor practices globally. Speaking to that matter, Weinhauer wrote, “Since the last third of the nineteenth century, the casual labour question has been the major problem of dock labour. Well into the middle of the twentieth century, many ports offered their workers only unstable and unpredictable job opportunities;” they also had “a great surplus of labour.” One subsequent work deserves mention: Lex Heerma van Voss’s “‘Nothing to Lose but a Harsh and Miserable Life Here on Earth’: Dock Work as a Global Occupation, 1790–1970” notes that casual labor only emerged with the rise of global capitalism in the 19th century; for instance, in European ports such as Barcelona in the pre-industrial era, guilds controlled entry to the trade and regulated the work. Voss also examines dockworkers through the lens of global labor history; that is, in ports around the world and in the context of different periods of globalization. Americanists should emulate these models and look beyond U.S. history, for many worthy points of comparison exist.21

Probably the most important issue still lacking serious study remains the effects of containerization on dock labor. Almost no historian of U.S. longshore workers, save Cole, has examined this matter. In this regard, historians of America are typical; for instance, the Dock Workers’ project creators consciously ended with containerization’s advent. Considering containers were introduced in the 1960s, the lack of study is shocking and unfortunate.

Other issues that calling for further work include a comparative history of the ILA and ILWU, or at least a study with multiple ports represented by each union. Similarly, insufficient research has been done on pre-20th-century history. Other issues in need of study include: gender and dockworkers; connections between dockworkers and their respective cities, and dockworkers’ residential lives, housing, and neighborhood issues.

Primary Sources

Government Archives

No governmental depository of dockworker history exists, per se. However, various local, state, and federal agencies have regulated, investigated, and impacted dockworkers past and present. Hence, the archives of these institutions can be of great use to historians. Among the obvious are the U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Department of the Navy, and U.S. Department of Justice. These and other federal government records are maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration, based in the Washington, D.C., area, though some of its records are held in regional branches. The Library of Congress possesses all sorts of treasure troves that those interested in dockworker history could examine, including newspapers and magazines from around the nation.

Private Collections

One way to appreciate the massive divergence between the International Longshoreman’s Association (ILA) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) is to attempt to access their archival records. The ILA provides no access to outside scholars. If the ILA has an archive—and hopefully it does—it is closed to the pubic and remains a secret. For long periods of time, the ILA did not produce a newspaper or magazine for its membership, at least not one that has been collected and catalogued by research libraries. In short, it is nearly impossible to gain information on the ILA from the ILA, a terribly unfortunate reality.

By contrast, the ILWU archive is open to all of its members as well as the general public. The union has a full-time, salaried staff member whose job includes assisting scholars and the public to investigate ILWU history. Located at the International’s headquarters in San Francisco, it contains a vast array of records from inside the union; not all records are available to outsiders, including personnel records as well as some records from local, coast-wide, and international meetings. Many important ILWU records have been collected by the city’s main public university, San Francisco State University, in its Labor Archives & Research Center (LARC). This wonderful collection includes: the Harry Bridges Papers, which—while not great—cast some light on his career, especially his earlier years; papers of some important members including Herb Mills, a Local 10 activist from the 1960s through the 1990s; the papers of Norman Leonard, both Bridges’s and Local 10’s lawyer; the papers of Sam Kagel, arguably the most important labor arbitrator in the industry for some decades; and much more. Further ILWU materials can be found in the Local 13 Oral History Project, part of the ILWU Local 13 Collection in the archives at California State University, Northridge. In Seattle, the University of Washington collaborated with labor unions to create a state labor archive that houses significant material on ILWU history for Seattle and Tacoma as well as beyond.

“The ILWU Story,” International Longshore and Warehouse Union.

History, International Longshoremen’s Association.

Labor, Oral History Center, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, including interviews with Germain Bulcke, Louis Goldblatt, David Jenkins, Norman Leonard, Sidney Roger, Henry Schmidt, and Estolv Ethan Ward.

Herb Mills, ILWU Local 10.

Transforming the Waterfront: San Francisco and Oakland, California, 1960–1970,” America on the Move, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian.

Further Reading

Arnesen, Eric. Waterfront Workers of New Orleans: Race, Class, and Politics, 1863–1923. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.Find this resource:

    Barnes, Charles B. The Longshoremen. New York: Survey Associates, 1915.Find this resource:

      Bonacich, Edna, and Jake B. Wilson. Getting the Goods: Ports, Labor, and the Logistics Revolution. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2008.Find this resource:

        Cole, Peter. Wobblies on the Waterfront: Interracial Unionism in Progressive-Era Philadelphia. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2007.Find this resource:

          Cole, Peter. “No Justice, No Ships Get Loaded: Political Boycotts on the Durban and San Francisco Bay Waterfronts.” International Review of Social History 58.2 (2013): 185–217.Find this resource:

            Cole, Peter. “The Tip of the Spear: How Longshore Workers in the San Francisco Bay Area Survived the Container Revolution.” Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal 25.3 (2013): 201–216.Find this resource:

              Davis, Colin. Waterfront Revolts: New York and London Dockworkers, 1946–61. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2003.Find this resource:

                Erem, Suzan, and E. Paul Durrenberger. On the Global Waterfront: The Fight to Free the Charleston 5. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2008.Find this resource:

                  Fisher, James T. On the Irish Waterfront: The Crusader, the Movie, and the Soul of the Port of New York. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2009.Find this resource:

                    Gilje, Paul A. Liberty on the Waterfront: American Maritime Society and Culture in the Age of Revolution, 1750–1850. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004.Find this resource:

                      Heerma van Voss, Lex. “‘Nothing to Lose but a Harsh and Miserable Life Here on Earth’: Dock Work as a Global Occupation, 1790–1970.” In Global Labour History: A Start of the Art. Edited by Jan Lucassen, 591–621. Bern, Switzerland: Peter Lang, 2007.Find this resource:

                        Hobsbawm, Eric. Labouring Men: Studies in the History of Labour. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1964.Find this resource:

                          Kimeldorf, Howard. Reds or Rackets? The Making of Radical and Conservative Unions on the Waterfront. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988.Find this resource:

                            Levinson, Marc. The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006.Find this resource:

                              Linebaugh, Peter, and Marcus Rediker. The Many Headed-Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic. Boston: Beacon, 2000.Find this resource:

                                Mah, Alice. Port Cities and Global Legacies: Urban Identity, Waterfront Work, and Radicalism. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.Find this resource:

                                  Nelson, Bruce. Workers on the Waterfront: Seamen, Longshoremen, and Unionism in the 1930s. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1990.Find this resource:

                                    Nelson, Bruce. Divided We Stand: American Workers and the Struggle for Black Equality. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001.Find this resource:

                                      Russell, Maud. Men Along the Shore. New York: Brussel and Brussel, 1966.Find this resource:

                                        Schwartz, Harvey. Solidarity Stories: An Oral History of the ILWU. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2009.Find this resource:

                                          Selvin, David F. A Terrible Anger: The 1934 Waterfront and General Strikes in San Francisco. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1996.Find this resource:

                                            Thompson, Michael D. Working on the Dock of the Bay: Labor and Enterprise in an Antebellum Southern Port. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2015.Find this resource:

                                              Weinhauer, Klaus. “Labour Market, Work Mentality and Syndicalism: Dock Labour in the United States and Hamburg, 1900–1950s.” International Review of Social History 42.2 (1997): 219–252.Find this resource:

                                                Winslow, Calvin, ed. Waterfront Workers: New Perspectives on Race and Class. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998.Find this resource:


                                                  (1.) Ernest Poole, The Harbor (New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1915), 138, 145.

                                                  (2.) Charles B. Barnes, The Longshoremen (New York: Survey Associates, 1915), 133; and Reg Theriault, How to Tell When You’re Tired: A Brief Examination of Work (New York: W. W. Norton, 1995), 133–134.

                                                  (3.) David F. Selvin, A Terrible Anger: The 1934 Waterfront and General Strikes in San Francisco (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1996), 41–42; Robert L. Allen, The Port Chicago Mutiny (New York: Warner, 1989); Barnes, The Longshoremen, 130–133; Ernest Poole, “The Ship Must Sail On Time,” Everybody’s Magazine 19 (August 1908), 178, 185–186; and Jack Walsh, quoted inHarrison George, The I.W.W. Trial: Story of the Greatest Trial in Labor’s History by One of its Defendants (Chicago: Industrial Workers of the World, 1918), 158.

                                                  (4.) Mike Quin, The Big Strike (Olema, CA: Olema, 1949), 31–32 (quote from “Maritime Crisis”); Selvin, Terrible Anger, 37; and Klaus Weinhauer, “Labour Market, Work Mentality and Syndicalism: Dock Labour in the United States and Hamburg, 1900–1950s,” International Review of Social History 42.2 (1997): 219–252.

                                                  (5.) Selvin, Terrible Anger, 34.

                                                  (6.) Poole, The Harbor, 139; Barnes, The Longshoremen, 60–67; Selvin, Terrible Anger, 34–36 (quote on 34 from National Longshoremen’s Board proceedings, held in San Francisco in July–August 1934); and Schwartz, Solidarity Stories: An Oral History of the ILWU (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2009), 13–14.

                                                  (7.) Sidney Roger, “A Liberal Journalist on the Air and on the Waterfront: Labor and Political Issues, 1932–1990,” an oral history conducted in 1989 and 1990 by Julie Shearer, Regional Oral History Office, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 1998, 280.

                                                  (8.) Eric Hoffer, Working and Thinking on the Waterfront: A Journal: June 1958—May 1959 (New York: Harper & Row, 1969); Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker, The Many Headed-Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic (Boston: Beacon, 2000); Paul A. Gilje, Liberty on the Waterfront: American Maritime Society and Culture in the Age of Revolution, 1750–1850 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004); and Peter Cole, “No Justice, No Ships Get Loaded: Political Boycotts on the Durban and San Francisco Bay Waterfronts,” International Review of Social History 58.2 (2013): 185–217.

                                                  (9.) Jake Alimahomed-Wilson, Solidarity Forever? Race, Gender, and Unionism in the Ports of Southern California (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2016), 127; William W. Pilcher, Portland Longshoremen: A Dispersed Urban Community (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1972); and ILWU, “The Women of the Waterfront, YouTube, September 24, 2014.

                                                  (10.) John Quinn, “Labor on the Delaware: The Longshore Experience,” May 22, 1980, shooting script, Delaware River Oral History Project, Independence Seaport Museum, Philadelphia, 7; Barnes, The Longshoremen, quotation on p. 3; and Eric Hobsbawm, Labouring Men: Studies in the History of Labour (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1964).

                                                  (11.) Bruce Nelson, Divided We Stand: American Workers and the Struggle for Black Equality (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001), 110–128; Michael Munk, “Francis Murnane and Racism in ILWU Portland Local 8,” unpublished essay in possession of author; Colin J. Davis, “‘Shape or Fight?’: New York’s Black Longshoremen, 1945–1961,” International Labor and Working-Class History 62 (2002): 143–163; and “What’s in a Name? For ILWU, it’s not ‘men,’” Journal of Commerce, May 4, 1997.

                                                  (12.) Marc Levinson, The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006), 2 (first quote), 11 (second and third quotes); Wytze Gorter and George H. Hildebrand, The Pacific Coast Maritime Industry, 1930–1948, Vol. II: An Analysis of Performance (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1954), p. 314; Lincoln Fairley, Facing Mechanization: The West Coast Longshore Plan (Los Angeles: Institute of Industrial Relations, University of California, 1979); and Peter Cole, “The Tip of the Spear: How Longshore Workers in the San Francisco Bay Area Survived the Container Revolution,” Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal 25.3 (2013): 201–216.

                                                  (13.) Fairley, Facing Mechanization, 69, 219–226, 305–322; Germain Bulcke, “Longshore Leader and ILWU-Pacific Maritime Association Arbitrator,” interview by Estolv Ethan Ward, Regional Oral History Office, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 1983, 209; and B. Glenn Ledbetter, “Who Said It’s Simple: West Coast Stevedoring,” Pacific Maritime Magazine in Local 10 Bulletin, March 15, 1985, 2 (MARAD quote).

                                                  (14.) Calvin Winslow, “Longshoremen’s Strikes, 1900–1920,” in The Encyclopedia of Strikes in American History, ed. Aaron Brenner, Benjamin Day, and Immanuel Ness (New York: Routledge, 2009), 547–558.

                                                  (15.) Eric Arnesen, Waterfront Workers of New Orleans: Race, Class, and Politics, 1863–1923 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991); and Eric Arnesen, “‘It Aint Like They Do In New Orleans’: Race Relations, Labor Markets, and Waterfront Labor Movements in the American South, 1880–1923,” in Racism and the Labour Market: Historical Studies, ed. Marcel van der Linden and Jan Lucassen (Bern, Switzerland: Peter Lang, 1995), 57–100.

                                                  (16.) Colin Davis, Waterfront Revolts: New York and London Dockworkers, 1946–61 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2003), 63–65.

                                                  (17.) Nelson, Divided We Stand, 10, 39, and 53.

                                                  (18.) Andrew Herod, Labor Geographies: Workers and the Landscapes of Capitalism (New York: Guilford, 2001).

                                                  (19.) Bridges v. Wixon, 326 U.S. 135 (1945), p. 157 cited in C. P. Larrowe, “Did the Old Left Get Due Process? The Case of Harry Bridges,” California Law Review 60.1 (1972): 80.

                                                  (20.) Charles P. Larrowe, Harry Bridges: The Rise and Fall of Radical Labor in the United States (New York: Lawrence Hill, 1972), p. 295.

                                                  (21.) Sam Davies and Klaus Weinhauer, “Towards a Comparative International History of Dockers,” in Dock Workers: International Exploration in Comparative Labour History, 1790–1970, Vol. 2, eds. Sam Davies et al. (Aldershot, U.K.: Ashgate, 2000), 3; Klaus Weinhauer, “Power and Control on the Waterfront: Labour and Decasualisaiton,” in Dock Workers, ed. Sam Davies et al., 580; Lex Heerma van Voss, “‘Nothing to Lose but a Harsh and Miserable Life Here on Earth’: Dock Work as a Global Occupation, 1790–1970,” in Global Labour History: A Start of the Art, ed. Jan Lucassen, (Bern, Switzerland: Peter Lang, 2007), 591–621; and Brendan J. von Briesen, Service-Sector Guilds and the Challenge of Liberalization: The Organization of Maritime-Cargo Handling in Barcelona, c. 1760–1840, Ph.D. diss., University of Barcelona, 2017.