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Longshore Workers Union Quits the AFL-CIO

Breakup offers the Longshore workers a chance to stand for principles over bureaucratic decorum.

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ILWU members may sit atop the most powerful chokepoint in today’s economy, but employers are working overtime to break their hold on the docks. And public opinion too often casts well-paid longshore workers as part of an unsustainable past, rather than a key link to a prosperous future.

The AFL-CIO breakup may satisfy ILWU rank-and-filers starved of solidarity, and it offers the union a chance to stand for principles over bureaucratic decorum. But leaving the federation is no substitute for spelling out a strategy to beat back emboldened employers,  keep automation from sapping union power, or stop concessions from spreading. The ILWU’s members, with their rich history, deserve no less from their union.

Here's hoping this shakeup stirs the ranks to once again, put their union's slogan—an injury to one is an injury to all—into action.

Mark Brenner  is the Director of Labor Notes. He can be reached at

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