Transport Workers Solidarity Committee’s Response to ILWU International’s Statements on ZIM Protests
Recent ILWU press releases and public statements are misleading and conflict with well-established ILWU policies and positions on Palestine and Israel. The editor of the ILWU newspaper, The Dispatcher, at the direction of the ILWU President, can not overturn those policies and positions without a vote by Convention delegates.
The Israeli Consulate’s statement that the ZIM Pireaus sailed from the port of Oakland on August 20 after completing cargo operations is untrue. But for the ILWU Communications Director, Craig Merrilees, to make that same statement, reaffirming the Zionist’s self-serving distortion places the ILWU on the side of those responsible for the recent slaughter of over 2,100 Palestinians, most of them innocent Gazan civilians. The false statement implies that the 5-days of picketing by thousands of protesters had no impact on cargo operations. The original call for a mass protest on August 16 and 17, mobilizing a few thousand was made by a coalition, Block the Boat, initiated by the Arab Research and Organizing Committee. However, subsequent picketing on August 18, 19 and 20 that stopped the ship’s cargo operations was done spontaneously by a smaller group of Bay Area activists, including the Transport Workers Solidarity Committee.
The truth is that after failing to gets its cargo worked at the SSA terminal, ZIM Lines tried to fool protesters that the ship was sailing to Russia, but longshoremen knew otherwise. The ship departed August 19, headed out the Golden Gate at night then abruptly reversed course, made a Williamson turn and headed back to the Port of Oakland, this time to Berth 22. Ports America, the employer, tried to shift longshore workers from another ship to work the ZIM Pireaus but there already was a picket line at the terminal gate. Some ILWU Local 10 members refused to work the ship. Those that reluctantly worked it, despite pressure from the employer and union officials, rebelled by slowing down cargo ops to a crawl. One crane operator boasted that barely 1% of containers was actually moved before the ZIM ship was forced to sail. Continue reading
Ignoring history of port-related discord not wise
by Jack Heyman, in an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle, Friday, December 30, 2011
The San Francisco Chronicle’s front-page headline “Governor to Oakland: ‘Keep the port open’ ” could have been gleaned from the newspaper’s 1934 edition when Gov. Frank Merriam vowed to bring order to the city and break the maritime strike by deploying the National Guard. It was the height of the Great Depression and workers were desperate for jobs or to share the existing jobs on the waterfront. But the union stood fast. After a general strike to protest the police killing of two strikers, the seamen and longshoremen won the union hiring hall that shared the available work equitably.
Once again, the Bay Area is at the forefront of social protest. Twice police evicted Occupy Oakland using tear gas and “less lethal” munitions, and twice supporters of the Occupy movement responded. Thousands of Occupy protesters peacefully marched to the Port of Oakland, shutting it down in protest of the depredations of what they call the 1 percent. The protesters proclaimed their solidarity with the longshore union’s struggle in Longview, Wash., and with port truckers. The business community cheered the evictions, but now its members are up in arms, complaining about shutdowns at the port, the funnel for much of their profits. It’s obvious which side they’re on.
The Oakland Port Commission tried to stop the Dec. 12 protest with full-page ads in the Oakland Tribune, the New York Times and The Chronicle, shedding crocodile tears about the port truckers and other port workers who would be unable to work. The commissioners pose as defenders of the “99 percent,” but in fact they stand in the way of the heavily exploited port truckers and port warehouse workers getting into a union with decent wages, benefits and conditions. Port workers recognize a sham when they see one and thus honored the picket lines.
Gov. Jerry Brown and Oakland City Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente also have joined the fray by chastising Mayor Jean Quan for not stopping the protests. Yet both were involved in similar port protests 14 years ago.
Brown, just launching his mayoral campaign, participated in a solidarity picket line in 1997 that shut down the Oakland terminal for four days in support of 500 sacked Liverpool, England, dockworkers.
And De La Fuente led the thousand-strong union protest through downtown Oakland in 1998 to demand the charges be dropped against the port protesters.
Now they’re singing a different tune.
This isn’t the first time Brown has called to use police power in the port. As Oakland mayor in April 2003, he called in the riot police to quash a peaceful antiwar demonstration at the port. Scores of demonstrators (and several longshoremen) were badly injured by some of the same munitions recently used on Occupy Oakland. The U.N. Human Rights Commission condemned the police action as the “most violent” repression of protests against the war. It cost the city more than $2 million. Brown promised to appoint a “blue ribbon” commission to investigate, but it never materialized. Now he admonishes Quan for not following his example.
Businessmen, politicians and even union officials have expressed outrage about the “damage” done by port “disruptions.” Yet when maritime employers shut down all West Coast ports for two weeks in 2002 by locking out longshore workers in the midst of contract negotiations, you could hardly see any complaints in the media or from politicians about the employers’ “disruption” of the port. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., was lauded when she called on President George W. Bush to invoke the slave-labor Taft-Hartley Act, forcing longshoremen back to work under conditions favorable to the maritime companies. They knew which side they were on then, too.
And not only did ILWU protesters have the right to try to stop the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan in 2003, they were right that the war was based on the lie that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Continue reading
Protests targeting West Coast ports on Monday stopped work shifts and shipments for hours with major disruptions at the ports of Long Beach and Oakland.
Hundreds of people gathered at ports in the early morning hours from San Diego all the way up to Vancouver, Canada. Protesters targeted in particular, terminals owned by a company named SSA Marine because it is co-owned by the Wall Street firm Goldman Sachs, and grain exporter EGT for anti-union activity.
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union, thousands of whose workers are employed by SSA Marine, did not sanction the action but respected the Occupiers’ picket lines. While some workers complained to press about a day’s worth of lost wages, an open letter by four port truckers decrying their working conditions, and in support of the spirit of the port shutdown, has received broad attention. In it, they say “we believe in the power and potential behind a truly united 99%. We admire the strength and perseverance of the longshoremen. We are fighting like mad to overcome our exploitation, so please, stick by us long after December 12.”
Protestors significantly disrupted business at the Longview, Washington port, where companies sent workers home citing health and safety concerns. In Seattle, Washington hundreds of protestors shut down at least one port terminal and police turned out with flash bang percussion grenades to disperse the demonstrators. Here in Southern California, the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles saw hundreds of Occupy activists gather near Harry Bridges park and block shift changes for several hours. Police then pushed protesters out of the area, and arrested a small number of people. The longest port occupation appears to be Oakland’s, where protestors disrupted traffic into the port until 4am December 13.
Uprising correspondent Lydia Breen was at the Occupy the Ports action at the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles yesterday and filed this special report.
Lydia Breen is with The Trailer Trash Project online at http://www.trailertrashproject.com.
Article printed from uprisingradio.org: http://uprisingradio.org/home
In response to coordinated attacks on the occupations and attacks on workers across the nation:
Occupy Oakland calls for the blockade and disruption of the economic apparatus of the 1% with a coordinated shutdown of ports on the entire West Coast on December 12th. The 1% has disrupted the lives of longshoremen and port truckers and the workers who create their wealth, just as coordinated nationwide police attacks have turned our cities into battlegrounds in an effort to disrupt our Occupy movement.
We call on each West Coast occupation to organize a mass mobilization to shut down its local port. Our eyes are on the continued union-busting and attacks on organized labor, in particular the rupture of Longshoremen jurisdiction in Longview Washington by the EGT. Already, Occupy Los Angeles has passed a resolution to carry out a port action on the Port Of Los Angeles on December 12th, to shut down SSA terminals, which are owned by Goldman Sachs.
Occupy Oakland expands this call to the entire West Coast, and calls for continuing solidarity with the Longshoremen in Longview Washington in their ongoing struggle against the EGT. The EGT is an international grain exporter led by Bunge LTD, a company constituted of 1% bankers whose practices have ruined the lives of the working class all over the world, from Argentina to the West Coast of the US. During the November 2nd General Strike, tens of thousands shutdown the Port Of Oakland as a warning shot to EGT to stop its attacks on Longview. Since the EGT has disregarded this message, and continues to attack the Longshoremen at Longview, we will now shut down ports along the entire West Coast. Continue reading
By Mark Vorpahl
13 September, 2011
Anyone who still believes that U.S. workers and the labor movement are incapable of mounting a struggle against the conditions that the economic crisis is forcing on us has not been paying attention. Evidence to the contrary was vividly provided on the morning of September 8th, when 500 International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 21 members and their supporters took over the Port of Longview in the state of Washington. Railroad cars were damaged and the grain they carried was dumped in an effort by these workers to defend their jobs by resorting to the only tactic they had left, that is, using work site action to hurt the employers bottom line.
To do so they had to use their strength in numbers to overpower the police and security guards. Though the police attempted to make arrests, the workers pushed back and managed to release their brothers and sisters. The standoff that developed was explosively tense. As the hours rolled on the police began to bring out an arsenal of “non-lethal” guns and tear gas, demonstrating that they were prepared to inflict heavy casualties in order to secure the port and defend the bosses’ property and profits. The workers withdrew, for the time being, after having made their point by inflicting costs on the port bosses dearly. It is a credit to their unity that there were no successful arrests or injuries. Continue reading
With Bay Area Ports Shut down, Longshore Workers and Oakland Community Rally to Say: JUSTICE FOR OSCAR GRANT! JAIL KILLER COPS!
Oakland was fired up today, and longshore workers led the way, as close to 1500 people came out in a drizzling rain in Oakland’s Frank Ogawa Plaza, in front of City Hall. After almost 2 years of rage among Oakland’s primarily black working class community over the unprovoked police murder of Oscar Grant, the rebellion continues, and shows no signs of abating.
Today the longshore workers of Local 10 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), together with their sister locals and supporting friends in the union movement, shut down all the ports of the San Francisco/Oakland Bay Area in support of Justice for Oscar Grant! Maximum Sentence for Johannes Mehserle! Local 10 executive board member Jack Heyman said, “The killings of black youth by the police have got to stop, now!”
Mehserle, the ex-BART cop who in 2009 shot Oscar Grant to death while he lay face down on a BART platform, faces sentencing in LA on November 5th. Since the maximum sentence for the absurdly light conviction of involuntary manslaughter (with gun enhancement) is 14 years in state prison, several speakers pointed out that this wasn’t enough. While some speakers said that any conviction of a white cop killing a black youth was a victory, and focused on calling on the judge, John Perry, to give the maximum sentence, jailing Mehserle and throwing away the key seemed to be the general sentiment.
As longshore workers came out for Oscar Grant, they remembered that workers shot down by police is nothing new for them. During the 1934 West Coast maritime strike–a pivotal labor struggle in the US–several strikers were shot and killed by police, including two in San Francisco. As Clarence Thomas, a Local 10 spokesman put it, longshore workers honored the memory of the two martyred strikers by moving the struggle forward. “This was the beginning of the ILWU,” he said. The workers’ answer to this police murder was the San Francisco General Strike. Similarly, the Oscar Grant movement has gone forward to create actions such as that held today. Continue reading
Emotions ran high when longshore workers at their July membership meeting were addressed by Cephus Johnson, the uncle of Oscar Grant, the young black man who was killed by a cop at the Fruitvale BART station in Oakland on New Year’s Day 2009. Recounting the sidewalk mural in the front of the hiring hall near Fisherman’s Wharf that depicts two strikers lying face down with the inscription: “Two ILA (longshoremen) Shot in the Back, Police Murder”, he appealed to the union to support justice for his slain nephew. He said, “That mural shook me because that’s exactly what happened to Oscar”.
It got even hotter in the union hall when Jack Bryson took the mike. He is the father of two of Oscar Grant’s friends terrorized by police at the train station as they sat handcuffed and helpless watching their friend die and hearing him moan. Bryson reported that police were calling for a rally the following Monday in the lily-white suburb of Walnut Creek to demanding that Johannes Mehserle the convicted killer cop go free. He asked the union members to join Oscar Grant supporters to protest the cop rally and they did. Outnumbering the 100 or so pro-Mehserle demonstrators by 3 to 1.
The New Year’s Day horror scene was videotaped by other young train passengers and broadcast on YouTube and TV news across the country. Grant, the father of a four year old girl worked as a butcher’s apprentice at Farmer Joe’s supermarket nearby on Fruitvale Avenue. The litany of police killings of innocent young black and Latino men has evoked a public outcry in California. Yet, when it comes to killer cops, especially around election time, with both the Democratic and Republican parties espousing law and order, the mainstream media either expunges or whitewashes the issue.
Angered by the pro-police rallies and news coverage calling for killer cop Mehserle’s freedom, Local 10 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union has called for a labor and community rally October 23rd in Oakland to demand justice for Oscar Grant and the jailing of killer cops. Bay Area ports will shut down that day to stand with the black community and others against the scourge of police brutality. Continue reading