Longshoremen Proceed with May Day Walk Out (Indybay)

by David Roknich ( roknich (at) electromagnet.us )
Thursday May 1st, 2008 9:10 AM

Minutes ago, I spoke with Clarence Thomas of the ILWU executive board. “The rank and file action against the war is indeed happening right now”, he said. And today the workers will write history.

In an attempt to head this off last night the PMA went to court, but the judge refused to take any action, until there is concrete action by the union in violation of their contract. This is a rank and file action by union members who are united by their opposition to the war, and the disagree with the decision of the arbitrator who has dis-allowed the choice of May Day, by the ILWU, as a “day for union business” for workers at all 29 ports on the west coast. A “day for union business” is allowed by their contract. Their original intent was to use this day as their official protest, but official or not, the protest is on.Thomas affirmed that this is not to be confused with the negotiations between the union and their employers. The hard-won contract of 6 years ago is set to expire, and talks are going well. But on the issue of taking a day off for union business, the rank and file of Local 10 is going their own way and will close down the ports in protest of the ongoing wars of the Bush administration. This may be the beginning of a record setting anti-war action, since the vast majority of supplies and munitions for our current wars are shipped from the 29 ports on the West Coast, in california, Oregon, and Washington. All 29 will close today.

David Roknich 9:05 AM PST

Here is some background from union procedings which I’ve archived at my site:

The wars currently fought by the US in Iraq and Afghanistan have become a war against working people. This is why the Bay Area Longshoreman of ILWU Local 10 were the first American union workers to condemn the war.

On October, 2007, ILWU Local 10 passed the following resolution, which eventually led them to vote, along with local 34, to shut down all shipment from the west coast to asia on May 1, 2008. (story continues after the shaded area below)


Mobilize the Labor Movement Through Workers’ Actions to Stop the War!Whereas, the overwhelming majority of people in the U.S. and around the world oppose the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and

Whereas, both major American political parties, Democrats and Republicans, have continued to vote to fund these wars, and

Whereas, the international labor movement through workers action has the power to stop the war, and

Whereas, the people of Iraq and Afghanistan are being killed and those countries destroyed, as U.S. imperial might and its regional allies, the Zionists and puppet Arab monarchists and generals threaten to expand attacks to Iran and Syria, while Palestinian rights are blatantly denied, and

Whereas, the bloody war abroad is waged against Iraqis and Afghanis, while the “war on terror” at home is targeting American working people, oppressed minorities and immigrants,

  • 1. One of the first targets of government repression since 9/11 was the ILWU, which during longshore contract negotiations in 2002 was threatened by the Bush administration with a military occupation of the docks.
  • 2. Recently, under the guise of Homeland Security two black longshoremen were attacked by police in the port of Sacramento, victims of racial profiling and police brutality, while at the start of the war scores of antiwar protesters and longshore workers were shot by police during a demonstration in the port of Oakland.
  • 3. Victims of Hurricane Katrina, mostly black and the poor, in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast died needlessly as the world witnessed a callous and racist disregard for their lives by the U.S. government. And the hanging noose from the schoolyard tree in Jena, Louisiana shows how deeply rooted racism is in America.
  • 4. People here are victims of government repression- spying, extraordinary rendition, attacks by police against antiwar protesters, — all violations of civil liberties supposedly protected by the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The rights of women to equality in the workplace, freedom from sexual violence and harassment and control over their own bodies, have all been eroded.
  • 5. As the great anti-imperialist American labor leader, Eugene V. Debs said from prison during World War I, “It is the master class that declares war. It is the subject class that fights the battles.” And it is true today as working class youth are used in a bloody imperial quest for oil and power in the Middle East.
  • 6. And both political parties threaten to expand the war to Iran, Syria and Lebanon, while repressing Palestinians and denying their fundamental rights as a people.

Therefore be it resolved that this conference calls for participants to go back to their unions committed to the urgent task of organizing actions, including strikes where possible, at the workplace against the war, recognizing that only an independent mobilization of labor can stop these wars and withdraw the troops immediately.

Addendum: From the workshop “Middle East: The War for Oil and Empire” a motion was passed “calling for educating and mobilizing rank and file workers in union locals and in organized forums about the false nature of the Category of Terror, to expose the role of our rulers in using state power to stage terror events as a pretext for repression, imperial war and the massive destruction of our rights as part of a heightened class war on working people everywhere.”

According to the striker’s website:

The Longshore Caucus passed an antiwar resolution to stop work in all U.S. West Coast ports on May 1, 2008 for 8 hours to protest the Democrats’ and Republicans’ continuing to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The resolution from Local 10 encountered vigorous debate. In the end the overwhelming consensus to take dock action to stop the war prevailed. It was Vietnam veterans who turned the tide in the debate overwhelmingly in favor the resolution, “For Workers’ Action to Stop the War”. As the President of Local 34 Richard Cavalli stated this resolution follows ILWU Local 10 and 34’s successful Labor Conference to Stop the War held in San Francisco Oct. 20, 2007, as reported in the ILWU’s newspaper, The Dispatcher. (The Dispatcher as a PDF file)

The original plan was to schedule a stop work meeting for May 1st, which is allowed by their contract for the conduct of union business.

“The caucus has spoken on this important issue and I’ve notified the employers about our plans for stop-work meetings on May 1,” ILWU President Bob McEllrath stated on the union’s Web site.

Employers, represented by the Pacific Maritime Association, will not agree to it, and threatened union leaders with court action under Taft-Hartley if they don’t call it all off. But the show will go on. With a press release on April 23rd, the gauntlet has been thrown down. As the day fast approaches, no court action has been announced:

Clarence Thomas and Jack Heyman, Co-Chairs
Phone: 510.333.4301 * Fax: 510.215.2800
Email: news [at] may1.org


April 23, 2008The Port Workers May Day Organizing Committee is proud to announce that Cynthia McKinney, former Congresswoman from Georgia; Danny Glover, renowned actor and political activist; and Cindy Sheehan, Gold Star mother whose son Casey was killed in Iraq four years ago, will be among the featured speakers at our “No Peace, No Work” Holiday mobilization in San Francisco on May 1st.

The West Coast longshore workers have voted to stop work to protest against the ongoing war and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. The Port Workers May Day Organizing Committee and the other rank-and-file committees in ports up and down the West Coast have received pledges of support from labor councils, local unions and anti-war, anti-racist, immigrant and other social justice organizations across the country and around the globe.

The “March with Longshore Workers” will assemble at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, May 1st, at the Longshore (ILWU) hall at Mason & Beach, and will march down the Embarcadero for a noon rally at Justin Herman Plaza.

David Roknich,

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