Let me say this about that

By Gene Klare

June 4, 1999

THE UNION-OWNED Global Mariner, which brought its crusade against saltwater sweatshops to Portland three months ago, paid a call recently to Vladivostok, Russia's major seaport on the Pacific side. The New York Times did a good job of reporting on the event. Said the Times in a news story by Russell Working datelined Vladivostok:

"The Lakhta is a rusting hulk that usually hauls scrap metal to Japan, but since February the vessel has sat idle here in the largest port in the Russian Far East, her superstructure painted in Russian and English: 'WE ARE ON STRIKE. WE WANT OUR MONEY!'

" 'So when the Global Mariner sailed into Vladivostok's Golden Horn Bay recently, its crew pitched in $720 for the sailors on the Lakhta. The Global Mariner is a 13,000-ton freighter owned by the International Transport Workers Federation, a union of sailors, truckers, longshoremen and others. Outfitted as a form of seagoing protest, the British ship is undertaking a round-the-world voyage to fight the registration of ships under 'flags of convenience' - countries other than the place of ownership.

"Flying the flags of countries like Belize or Liberia allows them to avoid taxes and hire crews from low-wage countries, cutting the cost of transportation. But the union says such vessels have poor safety records, frequently do not pay employees, and sometimes abandon sailors in distant foreign ports when aging ships get too expensive to run. The Lakhta, the union said, represents everything it is fighting.

"ONCE OWNED BY the Far Eastern Shipping Company, the largest transportation fleet in the Russian Pacific, the ship was sold and reflagged in Belize. The sailors are a year behind in their wages, and the owners no longer provide food or water and once even tried to evict the crew at gunpoint. The ship is caked in rust, and even her basic seaworthiness is in question..."


ON ANOTHER WATERFRONT, this one in Oakland, Calif., the San Francisco Chronicle reported that the Port of Oakland wants to reclaim its place as a leading port. Noting that in 1970 Oakland ranked No. 2 in the world in container volume, the newspaper said that by last year it had slid to 27th place. Of the East Bay port - a competitor of the Port of Portland - the Chronicle added: "...The years haven't been kind to northern California's biggest seaport. It's still bustling, but gradually the Port of Oakland's competitive position has eroded ... it has lost business to its rivals in Los Angeles/Long Beach and Seattle, which have deeper water and better rail connections." Explaining the Oakland port's plans for improvement, the Chronicle's Sam Zuckerman reported:

"The port is in the early stages of a massive $700 million renovation program, called Vision 2000, that will modernize operations and boost its capacity to handle cargo. Using 500 acres of land that used to house the Oakland Naval Supply Center, the port is adding two terminals that will allow it to handle nearly 50 percent more containers than it can today. The port also is building a new rail terminal that will permit shippers to move containers from ships to trains more efficiently..."


FROM THE PORT of North Bend/Coos Bay on the southern Oregon Coast, Marilyn Richards of Longshore and Warehouse Local 12 voices a complaint about the U.S. Coast Guard:

"When did the services of the Coast Guard become available to the highest bidder? I assumed that the purpose of the Coast Guard was to come to the aid of those in danger, not be henchmen for multi-million-dollar corporations. During a recent demonstration to protest the elimination of jobs previously held by members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, officials from Foss Towboat called the Coast Guard, who arrived in two 40-foot patrol crafts, to escort a chip barge into place at the dock...

"LONGSHORE WORKERS, who were demonstrating in their pleasure boats, were ordered to disperse or be 'run over' by the Coast Guard. This is in response to a noisy, but peaceful and legal demonstration.

"...When the United States military begins catering to private corporations, they are no longer servants of the people - they are little more than mercenaries."

Richards' complaint about the Coast Guard was made in a letter to Labor Notes, a widely-circulated publication printed in Michigan.


FROM THE PORT OF BELLINGHAM in Washington, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's business pages report that the new owner of the 100-year-old Bellingham Bay Shipyard has her sights set on doing more work for current customers like the Coast Guard, Navy and Washington's state ferry system. The yard also is working on fishing vessels including a trawler.

Billie Adams, who runs the Bellingham operation with the help of her son Tim, its chief financial officer, used to own an interest in Tippett Marine Services in Seattle's Ballard District but sold that yard in 1997 to buy the Bellingham business from Maritime Contractors, Inc.

"BELLINGHAM BAY SHIPYARD has come a long way since its founding in 1899 as a Pacific American Fisheries facility," the P-I's Paul Shukovsky reported. "At the beginning of the century, wooden boats were built there for Pacific American's fishing fleet ..." In World War II the yard built vessels for the war effort. The P-I continued: "After the war it became Fairhaven Shipyard and built a lot of Alaskan crabbers and some tug boats. Maritime Contractors leased the site from the Port of Bellingham in 1996 and built 49-foot buoy tenders for the Coast Guard, and barges and a target ship for the Navy."

The newspaper went on to report:

"Under Adams, Bellingham Bay so far has focused on ship maintenance and repair, but plans are afoot to begin building new vessels. She said there is an expanding market in the region for large yachts and she hopes to get a piece of that business."


AT THE PORT OF SAN FRANCISCO there is "...a move to honor Harry Bridges, the Longshore Union pioneer who led the bloody 1934 West Coast waterfront strike that made him one of the most powerful figures in labor history." The words in quotes are from an Associated Press news service story about the San Francisco Port Commission considering "a proposal to name the new plaza in front of the Ferry Building at the foot of Market Street after Bridges, who founded the International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union."


RETIRED PORTLAND PORT AGENT John Theodore Stathis of the Marine Cooks and Stewards Union died at age 72 on May 18.

He was born in San Francisco on Dec. 30, 1926 and graduated from Lincoln High School there. In World War II, he served in the Merchant Marine and in the U.S. Army. He attended the College of San Mateo in California.

Before moving to Portland he had served as his union's port agent in other cities. He was a board member of the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Portland and in San Francisco.

Survivors include his wife, the former Merle Karafotias, whom he married in 1961; a son, Tod J. of Portland; two daughters, Jan of Carmichael, Calif., and Sunday Balalais of Sacramento; and four grandchildren.

His funeral was conducted on May 24 at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church followed by interment at Skyline Memorial Gardens with arrangements handled by Riverview Abbey.


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