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ILWU 10 Surviving Widow Letter To Working And Retired
Source labornet@labornet.org
Date 08/09/02/00:57

Dear Sisters and Brothers, both working and retired:

MY NAME is Phyllis Mandel. I am about to be 69 years old, and
have had a direct and indirect relationship to the ILWU since
about 1961, when my then husband was a member of Local 6 ILWU
Warehouse Union. Keith Glick became a B man in 1963, and an A
man to the best of my recollection in 1969. It was a LONG six
years. Some of the times were very lean, and we had two young
sons by 1969, aged 4 and 2 1/2. Keith often worked 1 day a week
as a B-man, as that is all that was available. I went to work as
a secretary earning in a week, what he earned in one day.
Neither his one day nor my week's wages were enough for a family
of four. Then he became an A man, and to make up for lost time
he often worked 6-7 days a week, taking swing-shift, night-shift
and even the 3:00 am shift. While the wages of an A man look
good, those that "shape up" at the hall every morning, are really
putting in 10 hours a day plus travel to and from their homes.
If one works the day shift, at least when Keith did, he had to be
at the hall usually around 6:30 am to pick up his 8:00 or 9:00 am
start, which ended at 5:00 or 6:00 pm. After awhile Keith
decided to work swing or night shift, or even the 3:00 am-8:00 am
shift, so he would leave the house at 4:00 pm to get to the Hall
for a 4:30-5:00 pm dispatch and go to his job beginning at
anywhere from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm, or return home to go out again
at 2:30 am for a 3:00 am start. We passed each other like two
ships in the night. Therefore, he and almost all the rest of the
men - I don't think there was a woman on the front at that time;
did 12-13 hour days including travel time, and SOMETIMES even
longer if the shift went into overtime.

As was the case for most women at that time, we did double duty,
at half the wages men earned. We worked outside our homes, and
came home and took care of all the housework - cleaning, cooking,
shopping, getting kids to and from school, helping them with
homework, PTA meetings, etc. In 1966 or '67, the women's
movement had a rebirth from it's earlier time in the 1920's when
women got the right to vote. Our concers were equal pay for
equal work, or equal pay for comparable worth, childcare
stipends, time-off when we were giving birth etc. While during
WWII, women did a lot of work outside the home to help in the war
effort, after the war was over, they were told to go back home
and take care of their kids and husbands. Trying to fight for
equal wages for either equal work or comparable worth during the
60s, often brought us into terrific conflict with our husbands,
especially our longshore husbands, who had well paying jobs, and
could oft be heard saying to their wives "what do you need to
work for, I provide enough for all of us?". Well, those of you
who are now in your 40s, the children of those of us who are in
our 60s, know that times have changed, and that it is important
to women for us to work to have our own money, and to be able to
contribute to the finances of the family, especially so no
longshoremen, already working 13 hours a day, had to work 6-7
days a week to provide for his family. Those of us women who
loved and admired the ILWU, stood firm during strikes,
work-stoppages, and supported our men's efforts for better wages
and working conditions. We also WORRIED constantly about their
safety in a very unsafe industry. To know the safety rules and
regulations on the job, was a longshoremen' s best weapon against
getting seriously injured or killed.

Those of us women conscious of what a union could do, and
oft-times working as clerical workers, in industries that were
not unionized, for half the wages or less, of what our husbands
got, not only had to put up with crap on our jobs, but worrying
about our husbands on their jobs, and our kids.

I was an active member of the Women's Movement in Berkeley, CA,
along with being a Civil Rights Activitist, Civil Liberties,
Activist, anti-Viet-Nam War protestor, and last but not least,
SUPPORTER OF THE ILWU, to whom each and every organization for
change came to for support and help. In my heart of hearts, I
wanted to be on the waterfront. I loved the idea of not having
to be at the same job every day, and having the freedom to just
decide I didn't want to work that day, as the longshoremen had,
and yet not lose my job. I admired deeply the comaraderie
amongst the men - nothing us women had at that time compared to
it; and of course, I loved the wages. During, I believe, it was
the 1974 IWLU strike, I was by Keith's side and participated in
every way I could. We raised our kids in the union tradition.

Unfortunately, like many, many marriages of the 1960's, ours came
to an end in 1976. In 1996, at age 57 1/2, Keith died of a
massive heart attack, liver cancer, which nobody knew about, and
most likely drug abuse. At the time of our divorce in 1976,
neither of us had thought about the pension as part of our
property. Neither Keith nor I remarried, so when he died, many
of the waterfront guys I knew, said "Phyllis, you should get the
pension". Well, that meant a two-year long legal process in
order for me to be able to get the pension.

So that's a little background:

Now, I'd like to talk for a bit about the pensions themselves:
First of all, in my opinion, whomever is gettng a pension should
be getting a pension predicated on what the current scale would
be for pensioners. Just because somebody retired before 1993,
and the value of the dollar was so much less than in 2008,
doesn't mean that that person worked any less years in the
industry or that his/her financial needs are any less than the
person who retires in 2008. In fact, the older we get, the more
money we need, unless you have long-term care, and a lot of money
in your 401K. Secondly, as all of the wives, AND THE FEW
HUSBANDS who had or have wives working on the waterfront, and are
not longshorepersons themselves, have ALWAYS STOOD BY and done
almost double duty while our husbands/wives worked on the
waterfront, we should be getting 100% of the pension, not 50%,
60%, 65% or 70%. You can all say, "pie in the sky" - well the
union has what it has because the folks before you said, "we want
pie in the sky", and we ain't taking no for an answer.

SO I HOPE ALL OF YOU STILL WORKING ON THE
WATERFRONT, WILL PUT THE MUSCLE BACK INTO THIS
WONDERFUL UNION, AND TAKE CARE OF YOURSELVES AND
THE REST OF US IN THE PROUD TRADITION THIS UNION
HAS ALWAYS HAD.

Sister Phyllis Mandel
Survivor Pensioner #6382
ILWU Local #10

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