My research focuses on San Francisco longshoremen during the period between 1959 and 1980 when mechanization and containerization was introduced, the process of which changed work cultures and power relations on the waterfront. It studies especially the lives of “B” status workers who were “partially registered” but whose number was increased during the period. Many of them were black and young workers. It revisits the history of particularly eighty-two “B men” who in 1963 lost their jobs without just cause and who subsequently organized various struggles for their reinstatement, including a legal battle against both the union and their employers that lasted seventeen years. This study will extract lessons from the stories of the B men regarding how to build union democracy by examining the role of the union in promoting or undermining the culture of solidarity at the grassroots level in the workplace as well as in the community.
Battles of the ‘B’ Longshoremen: Work Culture Changes on the West Coast Waterfront and the Meaning of Union Democracy, 1959-1980