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Female Dockworkers In Los Angeles And Long Beach File Discrimination Suit

The suit claims pregnancy discrimination against both the union and the shippers

By Evan Symon, October 9, 2019 6:18 am

A Federal discrimination suit against the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU)  Local 13 and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) has been filed by the ACLU in Los Angeles.

The lawsuit claims that both the union (ILWU) and the shippers (PMA) have discriminated against pregnant workers at the Port of Los Angeles and at the Port of Long Beach. Four dockworkers have been listed in the suit, alleging that they did not receive promotions or union membership, that they lost pay, and that pregnant women were not given lighter duties while with child.

The claim went on to say that male workers were not given repercussions after missing similar long stretches of work, and that at least one woman suffered a miscarriage due to being forced to work. The ACLU lawyer representing the dockworkers has even said that this could ultimately involve hundreds of women.

Thomas also stated in a recent Reuters report that “Women make up 40% of the casual workforce at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, but you wouldn’t know it from the policies of the PMA, ILWU and Local 13.”

The Globe reached out to dockworkers across California for comment.

Tonya, who had worked at the Port of Oakland for five years, had similar experiences to those in the lawsuit.

“It happened all the time,” said Tonya. “There was someone I remember, a guy who rose from being a checker. He had to take 3 months off in about a 5 month span because of some family issues. No problem though, he was duly promoted. 

“But then we had a woman in a similar position who had a baby, and after maternity leave others were put over her who had been hired more recently.”

“When we asked our boss about this we were told that ‘She lacked commitment.’”

“No, what’s happening down there doesn’t surprise me because it’s happening everywhere. Every longshoreman, and I’ll say this, longshorewoman has either experienced this or seen it.”

Dockworkers, especially those belonging to the union, are usually given generous hours off during stretches of active military deployment or after being injured on the job. According to the suit and dock workers the Globe talked with, promotions and back pay are also given as normal, as if they had never left. But for pregnant women it seems like a blemish on their record.

As one of the named employees in the suit said, “I feel like I’m being punished because I wanted to bear a child.”

Another Oakland Dockworker, Carl, told the Globe “It happen so much that you don’t even think of it until something like this happens. I can’t say it’s been institutionalized here, but it IS part of the culture.”

In addition to the lawsuit, Tonya said that with the Los Angeles and Long Beach dock case now heading to court that more will come forward.

Senator Toni G. Atkins. (Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

“You asked me about [Lawmakers] doing something, and that would be the next step if I was them. A few years ago in Oakland we complained so much about using old and rusted equipment that the Governor himself (then Governor Jerry Brown) and one of the top people in Sacramento (then Assemblywoman and current Senator Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) were forced to visit.

Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell. (Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

As it turns out, Patrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach) is not only the Assemblyman in the district with the Southern California ports, but he’s also the Chairman of the Ports Committee in the state assembly

Any action outside the court would be made through him, and according to the dockworkers the Globe talked with, if they ‘haven’t thought about going to see him soon before’ that ‘they’re thinking that now’.

There has been no comment from either the ILWU or the PMA regarding the impending lawsuit.

As of now, with a suit having been filed, either a court appearance or an out-of-court settlement will likely be the next major step.

Evan Symon

Evan V. Symon is the Senior Editor for the California Globe. Prior to the Globe, he reported for the Pasadena Independent, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and was head of the Personal Experiences section at Cracked. He can be reached at evan@californiaglobe.com.
Evan Symon
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