Friday, May 02, 2008

West Coast dock workers protest Iraq War

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) staged a May Day protest on Thursday against the Iraq War on the West Coast. "West Coast cargo traffic came to a halt Thursday as port workers staged daylong anti-war protests, terminal operators said." (West Coast ports idle due to anti-war protests Oakland Tribune Online 05/01/08)

Watch video report here.

An arbitrator had ruled against the strike action. But the ILWU went through with it anyway:

In a statement Thursday, the International Longshore & Warehouse Union defended its members' right to take off work to protest the U.S. war in Iraq.

"Big foreign corporations that control global shipping aren't loyal or accountable to any country," said Bob McEllrath, the ILWU's international president. "But longshore workers are different. We're loyal to America, and we won't stand by while our country, our troops, and our economy are destroyed by a war."
See also: Dockers shut West Coast ports in brief protest by George Raine San Francisco Chronicle 05/02/08:

At least 6,000 workers represented by San Francisco's International Longshore and Warehouse Union did not report for work for the day shift, effectively shutting down 29 West Coast ports. Their president, Bob McEllrath, issued a statement that read, "We're supporting the troops and telling politicians in Washington that it's time to end the war in Iraq."

A day earlier, an independent arbitrator sided with waterfront terminal operators and other employers who suspected a job action was in the works, and ruled that halting work would be a contract violation.

The ILWU was not dissuaded.

"It's important that these processes are in place and we respect them," ILWU spokesman Craig Merrilees said of the ruling by arbitrator John Kagel. "We also have an obligation and are proud to respect the First Amendment rights our members have as citizens governed by the Constitution. This is a voluntary act of good citizenship to shake the tree in Washington, D.C., and get those folks to wake up and respect the overwhelming majority of Americans," who want to end the war, Merrilees said. (my emphasis)

On May Day, many marchers for many causes by Tyche Hendricks, Carolyn Jones, Charles Burress San Francisco Chronicle 05/02/08:

Dockworkers with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union walked off the job at ports up and down the West Coast, including Oakland and San Francisco, calling for an end to the war. Union officials estimated the number of workers at 25,000 while maritime officials placed the number closer to 10,000.

Operations in Oakland and other West Coast ports ground to a halt Thursday after ILWU workers stayed off the job, said Steve Getzug, spokesman for the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents companies that move cargo through the ports.

"There is no activity," he said. "The ILWU struck West Coast ports and brought cargo operations to a virtual standstill."

In San Francisco, marchers were urged on by a spirited brass band and led by the ILWU drill team, wearing taps on their shoes and carrying grappling hooks in their hands. At Justin Herman Plaza, Clarence Thomas, an ILWU spokesman, praised the protesters for walking off the job and called on others to join them.

"Could you imagine if this were being duplicated in more places in all the major sectors of the economy?" he said. "It would send a message that we want this war to end. It's killing our children and diverting resources from domestic needs."
There's a video from the Portland Oregonian that I couldn't get the embed to work but here's the link: May Day: Longshoremen gather to protest war 05/01/08.

Stop the War

Dockworkers take May Day off, idling all West Coast ports by Louis Sahagun and Ronald White Los Angeles Times 05/02/08:

The stand-down at ports including Los Angeles and Long Beach -- which combined handle 40% of the imported goods arriving in the United States each year -- idled ships and cranes, stranded thousands of big rigs and halted movement of about 10,000 containers during the eight-hour day shift.
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