Summery Plan Description of Medical Welfare History 

[Evidence that the ILWU/PMA Pension has always been inter-related with the Welfare Benefits for those retirees receiving that pension and their dependents.]

In 1974 a federal law, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), required an easily understood outline of each Benefit Plan (called a Summary Plan Description or SPD) to be distributed to the people it covered (called plan participants).

The SPD must be written in a manner calculated to be understood by the average plan participant, and sufficiently accurate and comprehensive to reasonably apprise  such participants and beneficiaries of their rights and obligations under the plan”

The PMA (and some of the ILWU leadership) wants you to believe that pensioners never had “lifetime” benefits.  The PMA took the words “for their life-time” out of the part of the PMA Annual Report which describes our benefits. Then without the knowledge of the ILWU Trustees, it was removed from the most recent editions of both the Pension and Welfare Summary Plan Descriptions.

PMA had no right to remove any language from those SPDs without consulting the ILWU trustees.  Many of us set out to demonstrate just why so many of us, pensioners and actives alike, have regarded medical care as a “lifetime” benefit, and why we still think this is a lifetime benefit despite the recent efforts of our Employers, joined by some of the ILWU leadership, to convince us that this was never so.

Everything done within the ILWU should begin and end with you, the rank & file. So many of the actions leading up to the present situation have been done in secret, behind our backs, that we must play "catch up" just to begin to inform ourselves about things we should have known all along. Efforts to do something about the matter, or to at least find out something about this issue have included the following:

The International Executive Board in December 1996 voted unanimously (except for the titled officers) to instruct the titled officers to get that missing language back.

The 1997 Longshore Caucus in Honolulu instructed the Trustees (including McWilliams) to secure replacement of the missing "lifetime" SPD language.

The International Executive Board (IEB) assigned a sub-committee (including titled officers) to determine methods of returning the missing "lifetime" SPD language.

After (and in spite of) these facts, International President McWilliams has refused to research this is information, or to even look at it and has also refused to attend the ongoing IEB sub-committee meetings on this matter except for the very first one, where he announced that HE would not going to pay for any outside legal opinions.

The following index, starts at the beginning of ILWU-PMA medical coverage. It is comprised of  information that several of us, using limited resources (limited sometimes by Coast and International officers) have been able to locate. It has been passed on to the IEB sub-committee.
This information is made available to you by people who believe that we have been led into many preventable disasters by those in the habit of keeping such information from us as they make decisions effecting our lives and those of our families,  ALL information about YOUR UNION should be available to you.


June-December 1948-1948
There was no mention of medical or welfare benefits, in the (brown covered) Agreement  1951 Pacific Coast Longshore Agreement  (PCLA) which was agreed to after a 100-day strike and an 80-day Taft-Hartley injunction.

December 1949
Agreement First medical benefits, to begin in 1950 (Employer’s cost 3 cents per hour) For active members (there were no pensioners)

June-July 1951 Agreement
(green covered) 1951-1953 PCLA With ILWU-PMA Pension Agreement The ILWU-PMA Welfare Plan and ILWU-PMA Pension Fund
Secs 19, 20, 21     Declaration of Trust and Supplementary Agreement to the PCLA.

Pages 46-48 Pension and Welfare Plans signed Cribbin-PMA / Harry Bridges-ILWU.

Pages 54-58 Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) The Henry Clark letter,  Section 2  establishes The ILWU-PMA Welfare Fund

Pages 63-84 First trustees of Pension Agreement, signed Henry Clark, J.P.Cribbin - PMAHarry Bridges, H. J. Bodine, L. B. Thomas - ILWU.

Pages 84-95 ILWU-PMA Pension Plan--Declaration of Trust Geo. B. Schirmer, K. F. Saysette, Bent Damsgaad - PMA Harry Bridges, H. J. Bodine, L.B.Thomas - ILWU.

Page 82 Amendment of Plan, Termination of Agreement, and Review. Section 11 Item a. The life of this Supplementary Agreement was 10 years, July 1, 1961, it was  to be fully reviewed each 10 years after that. Item c. The Plan, but not the amount of contributions, per assessment ton shall be subject to annual review July 1, of each year of its existence. The next such review will be June 30, 1961

Jan 1, 1951 The Dispatcher page-8, caption "Welfare Plan Benefits Won for Retired Members"
ILWU’s Pacific Coast Longshoremen, Ships clerks, and Walking  Bosses who retire can look forward to Hospital-Medical-Surgical coverage for life under the ILWU-PMA Welfare Plan

March 3, 1951 The Dispatcher Page-6, caption "What’s Welfare?"
Q.What if I retire during the year without having made the full hours?
A. If you are will be covered completely for the rest of your life for hospital-medical-surgical benefits...

Jan. 2,1952 The Dispatcher Page.7, caption "What’s Welfare, Medical Coverage for  Retired Men"
Q. If I have previously been eligible for Welfare benefits, and retire on the ILWU-PMA Pension, is there any change in my benefits for medical care?
A. No. Your benefits for medical care are the same as when you were active in the industry.

March 28, 1952 The Dispatcher Page-6, caption "Pension and Welfare"
Q. "What happens to my Welfare benefits when I retire?"
A."Your hospital-medical-surgical coverage for you and your family continue for the rest of your life."

May 9, 1952 The Dispatcher Page-4, caption "The Pension Plan"
Q. "Does a retired man continue to be covered under the Welfare Plan?"
A. "Yes he and his family remain permanently as long as he lives"

June 6, 1952 The Dispatcher Page-7, caption "Retired Dockers get Welfare" "All the ILWU Longshoremen, Ships clerks, and Walking Bosses who retire under the ILWU-PMA Pension Plan will be covered for Welfare benefits as well as receive their Pension checks"

July 4, 1952 The Dispatcher Page-1, caption  "1125 Dockers Retire to draw $100 a month plus...lifetime health care for themselves and their dependents."

Page-2,  caption “"Hail but no fair well" “"Then consider, also the fact that two other benefits are included we have not been able to find duplicated in any other Plan, those are life insurance and lifetime health care for life for the pensioner and his dependents"

Page-4-5, caption "Pensions on the Waterfront" Sign in a picture with several new Pensioners reads:
"$100 a month, plus Social Security, plus Health Care for Life, plus Life Insurance".  Also page-5, "Unique also in this Plan is that in addition to getting $100 a month plus Social Security Longshoremen and ship Clerks will receive Medical Care for the rest of their Lives and life insurance without cost. So far as it is known that is not matched by any other plan anywhere in the country"

July 18, 1952 The Dispatcher Page-1, caption “"Old-timers Feted Up and Down the Coast"
"Everywhere it was learned that the old-timers agree their Pension Plan is just about the best there is in America. Their $100 monthly checks are in addition to their $60 to $80 a month Social Security. Also they get health care for life for themselves and their dependents,"

August 8, 1952 The Dispatcher Page-7, "Caucus offers ‘Bill of Rights’ to Retiring Longshoremen"
"Eleven hundred and seventy three old-timers of the Pacific Coast retire on July 1, on Pensions of $100 a month, plus Social Security plus health care for life for themselves and their dependents,"

March 27, 1953 The Dispatcher Page-7, caption "The Pension Plan"
Q." When negotiations for the new Labor Agreement take place in 1954 will those negotiations have any relationship or any effect on the Pension Contract?
A. Negotiations for the new Coast-wise Longshore Contract in 1954 will have nothing whatsoever to do with the Pension Contract. The Pension Contract is signed and sealed for a ten year period, from July 1, 1951 through June 30, 1961."

Sept. 4, 1953 1953 PCLA outlined
The Dispatcher Page 6, "The $100 a month pension, exclusive of social security, is not the only benefit that goes along with retirement.  The pensioners also receive paid-up life insurance without cost to themselves and guaranteed health care for life, including care for their dependents."

Page 11, Bridges article "ILWU Pensioners Only Ones To Get Welfare Free"
Between 1953-1959 there were no bound edition of the PCLA, in part due to a series short contracts. The members continue to rely on negotiation results printed in the The Dispatcher.

This practice would continue even when bound editions were published. Often the only way to review the new agreements, the only way to address contract issues on a coastwise basis, was through The Dispatcher. Articles telling the membership about their “life-time” coverage follow beginning with the early 60s and the M&M Agreement.

The Dispatcher 12 page fold out "Information and Union Comment on the MECHANIZATION and MODERNIZATION Fund Agreement" called The Summary On The M&M Agreement.

Page 2  I The Agreement "$100 a month over social security, and full health care for themselves and their dependents,"

Page 4  II "Those gains were part of the over-all union approach to mechanization and reduced work opportunity"

Page 5  III Benefits "The men’s share in cost savings results from the use of machines will finance the early retirement and vesting benefits. Eliminating of make-work practices adds enough more to finance the floor under earning"

Page 6-7 ,Early Retirement ... ", plus substantially complete prepaid medical and hospital coverage for the men and their families." "pension plan, .$320 per month (plus lifetime medical and hospital coverage)"  Vesting... "The 25 year man is eligible for the regular disability pension irrespective of age, and to medical and hospital coverage." Union Comment "The guarantees and benefits will out-weigh the conditions given up by the workers"

Page 12  Item # 7 "full pre-paid, non contributory medical coverage for the individual and dependents during early as well as regular retirement"

June 11, 1965 The Dispatcher Page-4, caption "Hike is Six Cent; $165 for retired"
"An outstanding achievement was the negotiation of a widows pension for life, this amendment will provide one half of the husbands benefits to the widow... will also receive welfare for life"
 June 12, 1966 The Dispatcher Page1,  "The Pension Agreement will continue to 1976 no matter what changes are negotiated when the Longshore Agreement expires in 1971."

June 18, 1970 The Dispatcher Pages 1 and 2," Widows For Life.
An outstanding achievement was negotiated of a widow’s pension for life. This pension amendment provides one half of the husband’s benefits to widows and will extend welfare benefits for pensioners’ widows as long as they receive ILWU-PMA pension benefits."

 Page 11, On The Beam, by Harry Bridges "some pensioners are going to get a bit more to live on, and some widows will be getting greater security, and paid medical care for life."

1970 Agreement Page 7,
I. Pension Plan. Item # 4... "payable for the life of widow"...
II Welfare Item 2 "Welfare benefits for widows of pensioners shall be for such time widow receives ILWU-PMA pension benefit."

August 24, 1971 Arbitration Welfare continued during Strike.  Sam Kagel, Decision:
1. "It is hereby ordered that the moneys in the fund shall be used and expand-ed for the purpose of paying the required premiums to provide the benefits agreed to in the Fund, such payments to be effective as of July 1, 1971."
Feb. 15,1972 Caucus Minutes Harry Bridges to delegates Page 4, lines 15-20
"there is no other Pension Contract industry wide where after the pensioners get pensioned, their medical bills are paid for life for themselves and their families!  That a fact!  That a fact!  and now we add dental care and prescription drugs.  Not another deal like it in the United States of America!"

July 8, 1977 The Dispatcher (Page 1, caption “Big hike in 3rd year of Dock Pact)
"Lifetime Welfare Plan Coverage for all Pensioners and Widows continues and includes Hospital-Medical coverage..."

1977 Bridges retires. Negotiated pension three times between ‘51 and ‘76

1987 Summery Plan Descriptions Contains "lifetime" wording.

1991 PMA Annual Report Contains
"Most pensioners maintain lifetime eligibility in the Welfare Plan  for limited benefit coverage."

Feb. 24, 1992 Legal Opinion ILWU’s counsel Carder opinion on possible SPD language change
Advised that pensioners would retain the benefits despite the change, but actives would be effected.

1992 PMA Annual Report published early 93 (Page 38)
"Welfare Plan benefit coverage eligibility is maintained  for the tenure of the current Agreement between the parties."This is the first time the PMA has terminated the "for their life-time" language

1993 The decision (of which there is no record) is made, and the "lifetime" wording is removed from the Welfare SPD, which is published without it for the first time.

August 1995 The last remaining lifetime language is removed.
The Pension SPDIs published without any mention of it.

1996 Alaska trustees notice the removal of the language.

Sept. 9, 1996 Dispatcher fold out  THE NEW CONTRACT FACT SHEET,
Item # 10  McWilliams and the CC reported, "the Plan owes the pensioners and widows more than 1.5 Billion"

September 30 1996 Memo to Coast Committee Secretary
President McWilliams writes a set of rules preventing any member of the Coast Committee from using Union staff for "any research projects that are not routine" and prevents any "distribution of information by fax, mail, messenger or other means" unless the project is okayed by another member of the Coast Committee or, if there are no other CC members around, unless approved by the Office Manager or the Coast Committee Administrative Assistant (the office staff)

October 4, 1996 Minutes Alaska Trustees Mtg.
Item #13 The first written statement that ILWU Longshore workers (working under the Coast Agreements) had lost the lifetime language is made when the Alaskan trustees inquire after their efforts to arbitrate the issue had been thwarted by Coast Committeeman Ramiskey. He prevented them from reaching the deadlock needed to bring the matter to arbitration, by voting to table the issue, with the Employer trustees, against the Union trustees.

McWilliams signed a "Letter of Understanding" with Miniace because ILWU-PMA he believed welfare benefits are from contract to contract, despite the fact that the original Benefit Plan was a 10 year agreement not connected to the PCLCD and has not been negotiated by the rank & file through caucus action.

In amazement those of us that remember Harry’s far-reaching vision on pensions and welfare,  wonder how anyone could be elected to the highest office in the ILWU and could not remember the biggest social gains this union or any union ever made.

Recent efforts to replace SPD language have been made from, Alaska (John Bukoskey), to LA(Louisa Gratz), and Richard “Ole” Olson, who was locked out of the Coast Committee offices after hours and afterwards, put on administrative leave, soon after he made this SPD change known to the ranks. Since then every major ILWU local, and many pensioners, have made ongoing efforts to urge McWilliams in the right direction.  Still Brian McWilliams will not bend, in fact he refuses to attend the IEB sub-committee meetings on getting the language replaced in the SPD Booklet.

The PMA’s efforts to keep the "lifetime" language out of the SPD booklet is an attempt to relieve themselves of  their future Welfare liability to retirees, a huge financial responsibility by any  standards. Once again our employers are way ahead of us, having already changed the SPD language to reduce their long term responsibility which could increase dramatically when the new federal law is enacted.

Upon close examination of existing legislation it appears to some of us that the PMA has evaded it’s vesting responsibility for years, and years, since 1974 when ERISA went into effect.

Apart from the obvious cost savings to the actual welfare obligations, PMA seeks to escape pending federal law now being restructured around Medicare.  Upon it’s passage, employers would be made fully accountable for their long term financial obligations to pension and welfare cost. PMA made this escape attempt not at the bargaining table, but through the back door. The new leader of the PMA’s strategy for the future is a nationally known “Union Buster” from the East Coast, Joe Miniace, with an extensive background in the Health Care Industry, primarily in the destruction of unions that make up that industry.

It should be clear just why Miniace was hired. Just look at what the PMA is attempting to do to medical coverage for our pensioners.  These unilateral changes in the SPD, could mean the loss of billions of dollars for everyone, active members and pensioners alike.

Just four words have been unilaterally removed from our SPD Welfare Plan, "for their life-time".  Brian McWilliams has agreed with the PMA several times on this matter.
First in a "Letter of Understanding" Nov. 18, 1996; next in a letter to the pensioners on Dec. 2, 1996; then in ‘The Dispatcher’ Dec. 8, 1996.

Just as ILWU-PMA "Letters of Understanding" have been sent to the Pension Benefits Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), which is a joint application of withdrawal.  The PMA would relieve themselves of future Pension liabilities, so have they done with SPD language, getting rid of it’s medical liabilities.  PMA is preparing to get rid of the ILWU, wake up Brian McWilliams you are doing the job for them.

The following is an index to follow those attempts by the above mentioned people:
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