Revolution#129, May 18, 2008

Dock Workers Shut Down Pacific Coast Ports on May Day in Protest of U.S. Wars

On May 1, International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) shut down all 29 West Coast ports.  More than 25,000 ILWU members refused to report for work, demanding an immediate end to the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Jack Heyman, a member of the ILWU executive board and an Oakland Port worker, told Democracy Now! that this was the first work stoppage where workers were “witholding their labor…and demanding an end to the war and immediate withdrawal of troops.” The workers went up against the shipping companies and port owners who tried to have the strike declared illegal and an arbitrator who sided with the owners. Heyman said that to carry out the strike, the ILWU members also had to defy their own union officials.

Marches and rallies in solidarity with the ILWU were held up and down the Pacific Coast. One thousand people rallied and marched in Seattle. In San Francisco, where 1000 marched, speakers at the rally included actor and activist Danny Glover, Cindy Sheehan, and former Congressperson Cynthia McKinney.

In solidarity with the ILWU, the General Union of Port Workers in Iraq stopped work for one hour on May Day in the ports of Umm Qasr and Khor Al Zubair. In a statement to “Brothers and Sisters of ILWU,” the group said, “The courageous decision you made to carry out a strike on May Day to protest against the war and occupation of Iraq advances our struggle against occupation to bring a better future for us and for the rest of the world as well.” The statement from the Iraqi dock workers spoke to the meaning of the U.S. occupation of that country: “Five years of invasion, war, and occupation have brought nothing but death, destruction, misery, and suffering to our people.”

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