Jan. 23 Demonstration Called to Defend Washington Dock Workers
Protest Use of U.S. Coast Guard for Union-Busting
WHEN: Monday, January 23, 2012 [1:30 p.m.]
WHERE: 1111 Broadway, Oakland, CA Homeland Security Office
PROTEST DEMONSTRATION AND MARCH
WHEN: Monday, January 23, 2012 [2:30 p.m.]
WHERE: Federal Building 1301 Clay St., Oakland, CA
On Monday, January 23, the Occupy Oakland Labor Solidarity Committee and the Committee to Defend the ILWU will demonstrate to protest the use of armed Coast Guard cutters and helicopters to escort a grain ship which is to be loaded at the port of Longview, Washington at a terminal operated by EGT, a giant grain consortium. The terminal is being picketed by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU). EGT, which built a new $200 million dollar terminal, is violating the port’s contract which provides for ILWU workers to perform waterfront labor.
In the SF Bay Area, ILWU Local 10, the SF Bay area longshore union which supports the demonstration, Occupy Oakland and the SF Labor Council are organizing a caravan to Longview to meet the ship upon arrival, possibly this month. Occupy movements in Longview, Portland and Seattle are also mobilizing supporters to go to Longview. Solidarity with the Longview workers was one of the motivations behind the November 2 and December 12 port shutdowns in Oakland.
Local and state police are expected to be out in force. There have been 220 arrests of union supporters in Longview and fines of over $300,000 for blocking trains and trespassing on EGT port property. Introduction of the Coast Guard, however, is the first time that federal authorities have become involved in the dispute.
In a resolution adopted by the San Francisco Labor Council on January 9, the council condemned, “in the strongest terms,” this “first known use of the US military to intervene in a labor dispute on the side of management in 40 years.” In 1971, President Nixon called out the U.S. Army and National Guard in an attempt to break a postal strike. The Obama Administration’s planned action is strongly reminiscent of Reagan’s wholesale firing of PATCO workers, using 1248 military air traffic controllers to replace the union strikers in 1981.
The use of the military against longshore workers illuminates the hypocrisy of the U.S. government which chides governments around the world for unleashing their armed forces against their own citizens.
Longshoreman Anthony Leviege, called the Longview union struggle “a watershed struggle for organized labor. No more PATCO’s!”.
The ILWU has a record of militant dock actions over contract issues and social protests including South African apartheid and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Weakening of the ILWU and work standards it has negotiated over decades will lead to the erosion of conditions for all workers. If ever there was a time that the union cry “An injury to one is an injury to all” is relevant, that time is now.