Waterfront workers from Longview to Long Beach and beyond are facing a frontal attack threatening the future of our jobs and our unions. What’s needed to defeat these employer assaults is a solid union action, shutting down the Coast. The call by the populist Occupy movement to blockade ports should be welcomed as supplementary support for labor’s struggle. President McEllrath, on Oct. 5 publicized his “solidarity with Occupy Wall Street” statement. But now, the ILWU International officers are contradicting themselves, undermining unity with Occupy and saying the union wants nothing to do with the Dec. 12 blockade.
This is more than a ritual CYA declaration. The voice of the maritime bosses, the Journal of Commerce, (23 November) noted that the union leaders were making clear that they were hostile to the Occupy initiative. The ILWU Coast Committee issued a Nov. 21 memo slamming “outside groups intent on driving their own agendas.” The next day it followed up with a press statement “clarifying” its stand on “third-party protests.” These shameful statements go against the grain of ILWU’s militant record of solidarity actions and don’t represent the rank and file’s sentiments. ILWU is bottom up not top down.
The Coast Committee said that a community demonstration or picket is not a picket line, as defined by the longshore contract. This flies in the face of “ILWU’s 10 Guiding Principles”, which say:
“Unions have to accept the fact that the solidarity of labor stands above all else, including even the so- called sanctity of the contract.”
Occupy’s enemies, EGT and SSA, are ILWU’s enemies too.
Now the International turns its back on our history. We have to ask: Why would the Coast Committee place longshore workers in harms way by directing them to standby on safety if there is a large demonstration at the terminal gate when the danger to port workers is not from the protesters but the police? (Just look at the Longview longshore workers who have been beaten and pepper sprayed.) And why would the Coast Committee be concerned about a lawsuit against the union when all of these labor and community pickets were initiated by the ranks, not by the officers? Bottom up not top down!
The ILWU has a long history of standing up to the employing class and organizing solidarity actions, often despite the International officers’ positions. This is a source of pride for our membership and the ILWU is admired by other unions for its courageous stands. Longshoremen, as always, need to link up now with other port workers, truckers, machinists, warehousemen and the Occupy movement in a fight against the port bosses for our jobs and our unions, regardless of what the union tops put out.
The Longview workers are more than thankful for the support they have already received in their fight – our fight – against EGT. Speaking at a labor rally before a Nov. 19 march called by Occupy Oakland, Local 21 president Dan Coffman said, referring to the awesome Nov. 2 march that shut down the port in Oakland, “You cannot believe what you did for the inspiration of my union members who’ve been on the picket line for 6 months!”
The ILWU must support the Occupy move to shut down West Coast ports on Dec. 12. Most importantly, we must show the power of workers when the ship arrives in Longview days later to load scab grain at the EGT terminal.
The call must go out: PORT WORKERS: SHUT DOWN ALL U.S. PORTS !!