Clarification on Nature of Call for West Coast Port Blockade
Submitted by Occupy Oakland Port Blockade Working Group
West coast Occupy movements plan to blockade west coast ports on December 12th. This decision is not affected by a recent memo written by International ILWU President, Robert McEllrath, and quoted by the Longshore and Shipping News. Occupy Oakland's working group on the port blockade wants to clarify the situation, so that there is no confusion on intent and support for this significant action.
1. The port blockade is being called for by the west coast Occupy movements
2. The blockade is in solidarity with the ILWU local in Longview, WA, which is fighting a move by giant grain and shipping companies to bust the union, so they can have cheaper labor. The port action is also to support LA port truckers’ drive for union recognition at SSA, a port terminal operator - 51% owned by Goldman Sachs. The blockade is also intended to disrupt the profits of the 1% by showing solidarity with those in the 99% who are under direct attack by corporate tyranny – exerting the collective muscle of the west coast occupies.
3. The ILWU rank and file have historically honored community picket lines in the port --- for example they refused to cross community picket lines to unload cargo from apartheid South Africa. They refused to cross picket lines at an Israeli ship protesting the Israeli blockade of Palestinians in Gaza.
4. The ILWU did not call for the November 2 general strike in Oakland, either. However, they did not cross the picket lines, set up by tens of thousands of people, including labor, community and student groups, at the Oakland ports. They have a history of honoring such picket lines.
5. The fact that the ILWU Coast Committee cautioned its members that if a similar situation develops on Dec. 12, longshoremen should stand by (our emphasis) in a safe area and await a decision by employers to call for an arbitrator. This is similar to past situations where ILWU members have honored community picket lines. It allows the ILWU a legal out, not to cross the lines, if the picket lines are large enough to pose a threat to their safety, as interpreted by the arbitrator.
6. ILWU Local 21, Longview, Washington, was strongly heartened and encouraged by the overwhelming support shown for them by the historic November 2 port shutdown in Oakland. Their local president spoke at Oakland Occupy’s rally last Saturday, thanking us for our support. He and other ILWU rank and file members marched with us that day.