Labor & Palestine ILWU 10 Retired Sec Treas Clarence Thomas Speaks To Detroit Palestine Conference (Labor Video)

Video online here.

ILWU Local 10 Secretary Treasurer Clarence Thomas was invited to speak at the Peoples Conference On Palestine In Detroit on May 24, 25, 26. He prepared a tape of his presentation about the role of the ILWU10 and the struggle for Palestine. The panel was titled the Role Of Labor Unions and Palestinian Struggle.


[Music] on May 23rd

0:082024 I Clarence Thomas was interviewed by Brother Hussein Karimi one of the

0:13organizers of the successful people’s conference for Palestine which was held

0:19May 24th through the 26 in Detroit Michigan the interview was intended to

0:25produce a video statement to be aired during a labor for Palestine workshop at

0:31the conference an edited statement was finalized and submitted the presentation was not shown

0:38as plan due to an unexpected Palestinian guest who is a member of the Palestinian

0:47General Federation of trade unions who made an unexpected visit and the entire

0:52program was a gested to accommodate their speaking it was disappointing

0:58especially in view of ilw local ‘s important Palestinian solidarity actions

1:05taken going on nearly two decades here’s the edited version of the

1:11interview in its entirety it was thought that it was very timely to have Labor voice heard during

1:20the continuing genocidal assault upon the Palestinian population in Gaza by

1:26the Israeli military aided by the US military-industrial

1:32complex during the 39th ilw convention this past June local 10 submitted a

1:40resolution calling for long show workers to refuse to handle military cargo to

1:46Israel the union has taken such actions against military hunters in Chile and in

1:52El Salvador the resolution was resoundingly

1:58defeated on July 2nd 2024 12 US government employees who

2:06publicly resigned in protests of Brighton’s administration’s gaza’s

2:11policy issued a joint statement titled service and descent condemning The Continuous Flow

2:18of us arms to Israel and

2:24more peace is Union business I repeat

2:30peace is Union business permanent ceasefire now free

2:36free Palestine well thanks Clarence for for joining us you know the panel name

2:43is the role of labor unions in the Palestinian struggle uh local 10 of

2:49course has a rich history of solidarity with working people not just in the

2:55United States but across the world um and a rich history of internationalism

3:01uh we hope today that you can speak to uh the IL Wu’s history of

3:07internationalism as a union and popularizing it in the labor movement r

3:12large uh around the issues uh of you know South the back um in the struggle

3:20against South African apartheid to now around palestin first of all I’d like to

3:26extend solidarity greetings to the people that are attend ing the people’s

3:31conference on Palestine in Detroit Michigan uh it’s an honor to be a part

3:36of the program my name is Clarence Thomas I am a third generation retired

3:43long shoran member of the international Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10

3:48in San Francisco uh I’d like to read something in order to give some uh context as to

3:56why I’m here today uh the the ILWU has the long

4:01history of being interested in and supportive of Palestine Liberation going

4:07back as early as the mid 1980s and this was the direct result of

4:14ilw having a longer history of solidarity with the people in South

4:19Africa fighting against a partti but in order to be start at the

4:25beginning the history of the ILWU the record of its Origins and

4:31traditions is about workers who build a union that is democratic militant and

4:37dedicated to the idea that solidarity with other unions and other workers is

4:44the key to achieving Economic Security and a peaceful

4:49world and so when you begin to say well what does that mean what it

4:58means is is that our Union is Anti-Imperialist

5:05anti-colonialist we uh have fought against white supremacy I like to say that we have

5:12demonstrated our support for the working class and the oppress at home and

5:18abroad very quickly the ILWU has been involved with actions at

5:25the point of production which means where we work Longshore workers on the

5:31west coast ilw members are responsible for the loading and unloading of

5:36Maritime cargo on the west coast and local 10 is the only predominantly

5:43africanamerican local on the west coast which is also the home local of the

5:51legendary ILWU founder Harry

5:57Bridges going back to to 1935 after Italy had invaded

6:06Ethiopia the ILWU was in the process of

6:12uh loading nickel and other metals for E for um uh Italy and there

6:20were a number of people from the community who were protesting this act

6:26of imperialism on the part of of the uh Italian government musolini was in power

6:33at that time and they came out and they had a what I would call a

6:38blockade and they picketed in front of that that particular uh terminal where

6:43this work was going on and ILWU members did not cross that picket line because

6:50one of our 10 guiding principles calls for us respecting all picket lines as if

6:56they were our own fast forward in 1939 After Japan had invaded

7:05Manchuria we were in the process of uh loading scrap iron to

7:12Japan another blockade took place but this time our own leadership in Harry

7:19Bridges said we’re not going to send this particular uh cargo to South to uh

7:28to Japan because it could very well likely be used on American GIS should the United

7:36States get involved with the AES of evil in Asia and so it

7:43was long show workers did not cross that picking line and there were consequences

7:49as a result of those actions President Franklin Delano

7:54Roosevelt sent a letter and scolded Harry ridges and said that the ilw

8:01needed to stay out of matters involving US foreign policy and bridges was

8:06position was that it was our right as Citizens to do such things and that is

8:11the reason why we have been called the conscience of the labor movement

8:18ILWU specifically local 10 where my grandfather came into the Union in 1944

8:24and my dad in 1965 this is a union that is taking positions on the matter of all forms of

8:33discrimination Bri said that discrimination was a tool of the bosses the internationalism comes into

8:40play because of what long show workers do the loading and unloading of Maritime

8:46cargo cargo from all over the world in

8:521962 on a Sunday there were a group of community people that had come out to

8:59protest T South Africa long show workers once again did

9:04not cross that ticket line the ilw had taken positions against

9:10apartheid but it was pretty much symbolic but all of that changed in

9:171976 when a black long show worker by the name of Leo Robinson wrote a

9:23resolution subsequent to the uh Soo massacres in 1976 six where

9:30he called for the boycott of South African cargo by the ilw this was a very very

9:38bold uh and uh compelling resolution and one of the one of the

9:45marks of our democracy is that an individual like Leo Robinson who was a

9:51rank and filer wrote that resolution and it permeated all the way

9:57up to our Longshore uh convention in

10:04Coast I should say caucus which is the highest ruling body of our Longshore

10:11industry there were a number of activities that took place between

10:171976 culminating in 1984 when long show workers refused to handle South African

10:24cargo specifically at a vessel called the net Lloyd Kimberly for for 11 days

10:31in between that time there was an organization F founded called this the

10:37the southern Africa Liberation support committee the first time an organization of Labor had been established by ranking

10:44filers specifically for the purpose of fighting against the partai this action in with the fight

10:51against the partai took the shape of many many uh Endeavors the most the most

10:57demonstrative and radical of course it was the refusal to handle South African cargo it also meant that people who were

11:04members of thec came to speak at our Union Hall films were shown ranking fers

11:12wanted to know well why is it that we’re taking this action on the part of South Africa what does that have to do with

11:18our pork chops here meaning how is it related to the contract and workers those same entities

11:26in South Africa using the excuse that we’re

11:32trying to change things in terms of ending a partti by engaging and trying

11:38to influence the government all of that was a lie they were there to exploit black workers and so people got a sense

11:46of that but nothing could have explained it more to Long show workers than when

11:52Nelson Mandela was released from prison and spoke at the Oakland Coliseum and he

11:58acknowledged the ILWU specifically local 10 for refusing to unload South African cargo

12:07for 11 days and the only thing that ended that particular

12:12boycott we violated tartle we violated our own contract but when thousands of

12:19dollars in fines were going to be levied against the rank and file leadership of that strike as well as the

12:26officers that’s what ended it but Nelson Mandela received word about the the uh

12:33uh the boycott while he was on Robin Island and when he spoke to thousands

12:38who were uh onlookers and who were witness to that great event and he

12:44acknowledged the ilw local T because he as the world understood the importance

12:51of shipping shipping is the Mother’s Milk of

12:57capitalism and so when you just disrupt ships you interfere also with

13:04Trucking schedules rail schedules and it disrupts the international global

13:12economy not only did long show workers engage in that activity but they also

13:17engage in something that is very important to the Palestinian struggle at this time DDS boycott divestment and

13:26sanctions all of those things came in into play during the ilw struggle against the part we boycotted ships yes

13:35we also divested our Pension funds from companies that did business with South

13:42Africa former Congressman Ron Ron delum whose father was a member of ILWU Local

13:49tan and whose uncle was a starart in the labor movement for black folks he was

13:55when delum was Congress congressman representing the Bay Area he put forward

14:01legislation calling for sanctions they were B toed once by Ronald Reagan but the Congress overrode

14:08that beach we understood the importance of people being able to mobilize on all

14:16fronts I’m proud to say that I was one of the

14:21first ILWU members to be involved with the block

14:27thebat activ which took place in 2014 but it’s also important to mention

14:35that before 2014 happened in

14:412010 one of the first boycot boycotting of an Israeli

14:48shipping line one of the largest it’s called Zim Zim took place at the Port of

14:56Oakland and the reason why it took place was that it was in

15:01response to the massacre that was initiated by Israeli

15:07Commandos on the ma mamara it was a floella a Turkish floella on its way to

15:14Gaza carrying humanitarian supplies Israeli Commandos killed 10

15:22people with impunity on international waters and for the first time

15:29there was a picket line made up of Labor

15:34Palestinian activists social justice activists and most importantly the ILWU

15:43Local 10 which following in its tradition of

15:48not Crossing that picket line when some 800 members of the

15:54community showed up to protest those murders and the violence perpetuated

16:01against the Palestinian people in Gaza specifically that was in

16:0720110 but I am so proud that I had the opportunity to meet a sister and comrade

16:15of mine who many of you who are attending this conference today are familiar with her name is Lara kwani

16:24executive director of the Arab resources organizing Center

16:31we met because she wanted to meet the ILWU Local 10 leadership for the purpose

16:38of explaining to that leadership how they wanted the support of the

16:46ILWU in the same fashion that the locals supported the anti-ar

16:52strug I was a part of that great day in August 2014 when thousands marched at the Port

17:00of Oakland in order to meet and to

17:06stop the disembarkment or the unloading of cargo on a zim

17:12vessel in order to stop or to undermine or

17:20mitigate the political victory of the community that had called made the call

17:27and had people to come out out for the demonstration at the Port of

17:35Oakland Zim decided to Rondevu in the montere bay until the following day trying to

17:44not give that Victory to the community it had to finally come

17:50in but what was specifically designated to have a on day

17:57action turned into to a 4-day affair it was

18:04absolutely gratifying for so many of our younger members to be able to connect

18:12the dots from what happened in the 1970s and the

18:171980s to 2014 brother Leo Robinson and

18:25others was so successful in making the connection between the treatment of

18:31black people in South Africa and the treatment of Palestinians by the

18:39Israelis specifically through Zionism so the ILWU was able to talk and

18:47to gain support for Resolutions going back to the 1980s at our

18:55conventions and they were also able to reaffirm that in the

19:001990s brother Leo Robinson was the first ILWU member to write a position paper on

19:07the importance of the ILWU in the world recognizing the leadership of the PLO as

19:14a legitimate leadership of the Palestinian

19:20people today I’m wearing a t-shirt along with my keep underneath that is a t-shirt of

19:28people who who were members of the Black Panther Party I thought it was appropriate to wear this shirt because

19:34in the 1970s huie P Newton met chairman yasa

19:41araban they met and huie was able to make the connection between the

19:47Palestinian struggle and the struggle of African people throughout the world it

19:52was very important we have to learn from those lessons but just let me say this in

19:59terms of why you’re asking me to be on this panel today the importance of Labor in this

20:08and the struggle for the liberation of Palestinian people ending the

20:14onslaught ending the mass murder and genocide on the part of the zionists

20:19with the backing of us imperialism and companies such as Ron Bo LED Martin

20:29all benefiting from the murder of women and children and innocent

20:36people in Gaza in the Palestinian

20:42territory labor needs to understand that support for the Palestinian struggle is

20:49a working class issue I understand that some of the

20:55unions today don’t have the rich and let’s face it radical tradition of the

21:02ILWU I understand that but they still need to understand that these are

21:08working class people and they should also be able to understand the importance of

21:14international solidarity we’re so backward in this country that we think that Mayday is a

21:21communist holiday while socialist countries do celebrate that day its origin started

21:28here in the United States of America for the struggle for the 8 hour work day but

21:35that history has been hidden from us and I’m proud to say that we and ilw local

21:41tener played a very important role in reclaiming that

21:46history which is why just this [Music]

21:52month we did not work Mayday as we have not worked it in the last 20 years

21:59two decades no work at the port for eight

22:04hours on the day side no work at the port on the night side for 24 hours in

22:12solidarity with the Palestinian struggle solidarity is not an empty

22:20slogan let me clarify that today the Zim

22:25lines does not come to the West Coast long show workers make their living

22:32loading and unloading vessels but I along with others are

22:38mindful that long show workers in Gaza they can’t work and haven’t worked in

22:45decades this is not all right we choose to believe in what’s

22:52right and not who’s right and what’s right for the American worker is to

22:57stand up when we stand up to support the Palestinians we are also helping

23:04ourselves it is our tax dollars that are going to commit these murders and these

23:11atrocities monies that could be spent on Health Care here monies that could be

23:17spent on education I was recently in Cuba just a few weeks

23:23ago but the blockade and and them being put on the uh the state sponsor of

23:29terrorism they have one of the finest medical schools in the world they even

23:34have American students going there for free but yet our students have to pay

23:40hundreds of thousands of dollars to come out I’m bringing all this up because of the fact that we could have a better

23:47system we can have we can participate in the liberation of Gaza at the same time

23:54while we are also creating the emancipation of the working class for our our eles this is in our interest

24:02which is why I have to say something with regards to what’s going on with the students all across the United States of

24:09America I am so proud of what they are doing it reminds me so much of my days

24:15when I was at San Francisco State and was part of the longest student strike in American history for the estab

24:22establishment of a black studies in a school of ethnic studies and open enrollment to increase the number of

24:27working class and black students that that struggle went on for four and a half months and as I stand today reading

24:36every day how students are being attacked by the police the same where we

24:41were in 1968 by the tax Squad in San Francisco how we were being attacked by

24:47Ronald Reagan who was the governor at that time how we were being attacked by various right-wing forces and young

24:55people today are seeing it themselves we have to ask ourselves why is it that

25:01young people seem to be so uh inclined to understand the

25:07struggle I think I have an answer for that young people today see the

25:13contradictions of capitalism they see that once they graduate from college they still are not

25:20guaranteed the job they understand that even if they do get jobs they may have

25:25to take job that they don’t want to work California State University Long Beach

25:34is really has been hijacked by the boing company boing think that that’s their

25:41private uh Plantation so that they can train people to go into being complicit

25:49in the murders of people in Gaza they’ve hijacked public education

25:56corporations the military indust conflex these young people are putting

26:01their academic careers on the line because they understand they cannot sit

26:08idly by and watch this genocide take place and they’ve also learned the

26:14lessons of boycott divestment and

26:19sanctions they work the Israeli government is very

26:25concerned about BDS after we took action against Zim in

26:322010 something very interesting took place the Israeli consulate wanted to

26:39come to speak to our executive board to tell us the error of our

26:45ways we said hell no we don’t speak to the Israeli

26:51government our actions speak for themselves it is they understand

26:58understand the lessons of the anti-ar struggle very

27:03clearly very clearly so I think the inspiration that

27:09lab the labor movement needs to take from young people today who are

27:15demonstrating some CL some uh commencement exercises that been cancelled students have been

27:22brutalized at UCLA the State and the city has turned a

27:29blind eye to the zionists and the neo-nazis who attacked UCLA students

27:36when no one has been arrested we have to be on the right side

27:43of History I’m going to close with this we have a resolution that’s going

27:49before I say we meaning the ILWU I’m retired but I still have a

27:56voice in the union I gu can’t vote but there’s a resolution that’s going before

28:02the convention which starts on the 17th of June and it’s calling

28:10for ILWU members to refuse to handle

28:16military cargo destined for Israel this is not

28:23the first time that we’ve done this we’ve done it in the 1970s

28:28when the hunter in and El Salvador and more specifically the actions taken on

28:34the part of uh the government in Chile with the after the

28:40assassination of Salvador yend long show workers in local 10

28:47refused to ship bum parts parts and other

28:53equipment connected to military cargo to the state of

28:59Chile we’ve done this before I can’t say how the delegates are

29:06going to vote we’re hoping that they will do the

29:12right thing we know that people are very much

29:17concerned about genocide but we also understand that the

29:22United States government and it’s

29:28genocide committed against the Native Americans the enslavement of

29:36African-Americans the enslavement of the American worker their anti-union history all of

29:44this is related this is why that rightwing doesn’t want the real history to be

29:50taught in schools but it’s so important so important at this time for

29:58us to step forward and to make a sacrifice solidarity is not an empty

30:06slogan it means that you have to give something up I have not heard one long

30:11show worker complain about losing work as a result

30:17of supporting Palestinians and the Z ship I have not heard one person complain about that because they

30:25understand that that was their opportunity to make a contribution to the struggle and other workers must step

30:32up and do the same thing yes this is a very momentous time and a

30:38very critical part of our history labor has a very important role

30:44to play and it all starts with ranking fers of

30:50conscience coming forward writing resolution it starts with resolutions

30:55they should not be afraid these are our tax dollars these are our sisters and

31:01brothers who being killed in broad daylight with the help of our tax

31:07dollars and our government that does not represent us by standing up and

31:13supporting the Palestinians we are standing up and supporting ourselves for

31:18what kind of a future do we want a country that does not invest in its

31:24youth has no future and I’m glad to see these young people setting the

31:31example I would just like to say one thing before I close out today I hope that one of the things that

31:39transpires at the conclusion of this conference is that people will look at

31:45the ILWU Local 10 in particular as being a

31:53symbol and a Guiding Light for others to follow

31:58we’ve taken many many radical positions and have paid a price for that but part

32:06of what has given local 10 its revolutionary character yes I say

32:12revolutionary why do I say that because shipping is so critical to the global

32:20economy and the world knows that and when we have long show workers in other

32:26parts of the United States of America and the world standing up and refusing to handle

32:35military cargo or any cargo that is facilitating the murder and genocide against our

32:42Palestinian sisters and brothers we need to step up and step

32:49forward there may be some things that I missed today but I’m certain uh if

32:54there’s anything you want to add brother Hussein I’m glad that that you have made this possible for me to be a part of

33:01this great conference today it’s very important the guys of the world are on

33:08all of us in particular labor and labor has to understand that that Joe Biden

33:17and I’m gonna call him what he is genocide Joe he can’t serve two masters his

33:26master is the ruling class the military industrial complex I don’t care how many

33:34billions of dollars that he uh reduces in student

33:40loans I don’t care these these empty gestures of uh I’m gonna hold up uh

33:46sending these bombs that’s a bunch of BS he’s

33:52committed to us imperialism and Zionism and we have to understand that

33:58he is not on our side I don’t care what he says we need to be on the side of the

34:05workers we need to be on the side of the oppressed we need to be on our side and

34:12I would conclude by saying free free Palestine let Gaza be

34:17[Music] free from Ferguson to Palestine occupation is a

34:24crime and we have a slogan long associated with the i W it started with the wobblies the international workers

34:31of the world it goes like this an injury to one is an injury to all an injury to

34:37one is an injury to all free free Palestine thank you

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