Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Longshoreman Speaks: "I Fully Support Port Shutdown"

Please note that this is a post originally generated on December 10th, 2011. It was deleted in one of those stupid accidents that happens when you use blogger. Apologies.

As December 12th approaches, differing opinions on the effectiveness of a port shutdown are flying, with Occupy Wall Street organizers speaking on behalf of the action and ILWU officers releasing statements of non-support for interrupting the flow of commerce on that day.

However, this has not impeded OWS organizers from orchestrating a large-scale shutdown across the entire West Coast. Thus far, major occupations in Tacoma, Seattle, Portland, San Diego, Oakland, Los Angeles and Vancouver BC have endorsed and organized actions on that day, while Occupations in other cities such as Denver and Dallas have pledged to hold solidarity actions to support the shutdown.

This action is not only supported, however, by the Occupy movement. As I reported on my last post on the shutdown, port workers have been in meetings discussing the action and have spoken privately about their support. Many are unwilling to make statements to the press because they don't want to jeopardize their contracts, however, I sat down with one port worker to get his opinion on the action on condition of anonymity.

The longshoreman, who I will refer to as "John", also supports the Occupy movement and he spoke with me at length about the many reasons he is glad to see civil disobedience in the ports.

I fully support it. The major shipping companies and other corporations that work with them don't just directly affect port workers, but the power they wield over the economy, politics and society as a whole effects all workers on an international scale. The labor and Occupy movements need to take the fight directly to their doorstep. I had concerns even before Oakland called the November 2nd General Strike and 12/12 shutdown was that there wouldn't be enough dialogue between organizers, port workers and the unions that represent them. As such, we've seen something of a backlash specifically from ILWU officers which I think could have been avoided if there had been more discussion from the start.Of course, the ILWU's objection to the action is that it would negatively effect port workers on the job to interrupt business at the ports. When I asked John about that concern, he told me:

I think it's a valid concern, but if you want to make an omelet you gotta break some eggs. When workers themselves go on strike we discuss these issues. However, this is only a one-day thing. I think that these objections come up because the action was proposed by a seemingly outside group. However, port workers are members of the 99% percent as well! "An injury to one is an injury to all." We are all in this together.Finally I asked him if other longshoremen supported the action and he grinned and said:

Yes, absolutely. Longshoremen have a long proud history of radical activism and honoring community picket lines, much like the anti-apartheid pickets at ports in the 1980s. It appears that that history of radical activism is still taking place today, and with longshoremen supporting the action organizers and Occupier are more dedicated than ever to sending a message to the large corporations that operate in ports cannot engage in union-busting tactics without the community taking them to task.

On Monday, December 12th the day will kick off with a Hip-Hop Occupies rally in Westlake Park at noon, followed by a port shutdown at 3 PM. Transportation will be provided between Westlake and the Port.

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