Cases & Advocacy

Burrows v. ILWU

Status: Closed

Outcome: Victory

Location: California

Marvin Burrows and his partner William Swenor were together for 51 years. Burrows and Swenor did everything within their power to demonstrate their commitment to each other and to provide for the surviving partner in the event of one partner’s death, including registering as domestic partners.

Swenor worked as a warehouse crew leader for more than 35 years. Throughout Swenor’s employment, he was a member of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and contributed to their pension plan. When Swenor unexpectedly passed away in March 2005, Burrows submitted a claim for Swenor’s pension benefits. Despite their long-term relationship and registration as domestic partners, the ILWU initially rejected Burrows’ claim. As a result, Burrows lost his home of 35 years and was financially destitute. NCLR, with the assistance of attorney Teresa Renaker, filed an appeal, and after a two year struggle, the local chapter of the ILWU changed its policy to provide equal pension benefits to surviving domestic partners. The union also made this change retroactive to March 2005, ensuring that Burrows will receive all of his partner’s benefits.