California: Longshore union grants pension to same-sex partner

More progress, this with the Industrial Employers and Distributors Association and Warehouse Union (ILWU) in San Francisco.

William Swenor of Hayward, California had been together with his partner Marvin Burrows for 51 years when Swenor passed away in March of 2005. The ILWU rejected Burrows’ attempt to claim his life partner’s pension, but after two years of wrangling, the union will now recognize registered domestic partners as same-sex spousal equivalents. (

The local agreed to make this change retroactive to March 1, 2005, enabling Burrows, now 71, and anyone else in the same situation to receive his deceased partner’s pension benefits. Covered are about 5,500 warehouse and distribution workers in Northern California. (The longshoremen themselves are covered under another contract, to be renegotiated next year, union spokesman John Showalter told

Though the fight was a long one, the union should be commended, said Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which represented Burrows in the action settled out of court.

“It is still pretty unusual, even in California, even in the Bay Area, to confer same-sex pension benefits, and one of the hardest issues to make significant progress on,” Minter told “Employers are much quicker to add health benefits (for LGBTs) than pension or retirement benefits.”

…”Some employers are under the impression that DOMA (the federal Defense of Marriage Act) prevents them from offering same-sex benefits; it does not,” Minter said. “It prevents the government from doing so, but not private employers.

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