Start Building for 10/23 – Work Stoppage Against Police Brutality

Recently the ILWU called for a rally on October 23 and expressed interest in a work stoppage to ensure that Johannes Meserle receive the maximum sentence for the murder of Oscar Grant. The ILWU have a long history of taking a leading role in periods of mass struggle and of engaging in political strikes. The San Francisco General Strike started when state and private police killed 2 longshoremen as they tried to break picketlines that had closed not only SF ports but all of the ports on the west coast for 2 and a half months. In 1973 the ILWU refused to ship munitions headed for Chile following the military coup and suppression of the Cordones (workers councils). In 1984 the ILWU shut down the ports for 11 days in a political strike against aparthied in South Africa.

ILWU Local 10

The ILWU is able to take such militant action without being destroyed by the ruling class because the longshoremen occupy such a strategically strong position in the production of profit – the unloading of the majority of commodities headed for consumption. Harry Bridges, along with a rank-file committee organized and led a strike in 1934, quickly growing into a general strike through all of San Francisco and even Oakland, it continues this militant historical legacy into an array of other struggles long after. The ILWU is now throwing their weight into the struggle for justice during a period of racist state murder and mass incarceration marked by the deepest economic crisis in capitalist history. On May 1, 2008, International Labor Day, they shut down all of the west coast ports in a one day political strike against the war. On June 20 of this year the Longshoremen refused to cross a picketline blocking the entrances to the port to stop an Israeli ship from docking in the wake of the Freedom Flotilla Massacre. Now they are calling for a rally on the 23rd of October at Oakland City hall and may shut down the ports.

Johannes Mesherle was the first police officer to be convicted of killing a black man in United States history. Why is it that during a period when the capitalist ruling class is tearing out the floorboards and the studs from the walls to throw into the furnaces of profit that they convicted this man? Is it because of the half dozen witnesses and video cameras that recorded Mesherle shoot Oscar in the back after making racial slurs at him? The KKK and the police have been murdering young black men in front of witnesses for centuries. On the night Oscar Grant was shot another young black man was shot 8 times in the back of the head in his car after trying to evade police in Los Angeles. On the same night a young black man was shot nine times in the back by police in New Orleans.

Mesherle was convicted because the repressive tool of the ruling class, the state, is scared that they will awaken a sleeping giant: highly oppressed working class black and brown people. They were scared when Oakland youth took to the streets on January 7, 2009 and they subsequently arrested Meserle on January 13. They were scared that having the trial in Oakland would awaken more critical consciousness in a city where 90% of the bailout money went to the police while childcare, welfare, education, and healthcare are being gutted, so they moved the trial to LA. They were scared that an accquittal would result in sustained resistance and militant organization in addition to spontaneous street rebellions, so there was a minor conviction. And now the Longshoremen have taken a step towards qualitatively advancing this struggle to a new height by putting the possibility of political strikes on the table. Now what fear can we strike into the ruling class? What justice can we really get? What will it take to put an end once and for all to racist police murder? At a time when prisions are proliferating while schools and hospitals for low income communities are closing in scores, at a time when the last workers making a living wage are being cast aside while contractors get billions for pointless construction projects, one thing that all of the oppressed people struggling for freedom in these different sectors can join together and fight for is justice for Oscar Grant.

And this is something that terrifies the capitalist ruling class. It sends chills down to their bones. The capitalists are sitting on 60 trillion dollars of fake money and can’t make profits anymore without looting the treasury; they are weak so they know full well the danger of an organized militant class conscious working class that wants justice. They know that when we see another intelligent, outgoing, and vivacious young man’s life so tragically cut short by the enforcers of the same laws that have allowed the elite to squeeze every last drop of value from our labor, we might just take up the struggle for liberation with a degree of unity and determination that could actually win. We can get justice for Oscar Grant. And we can also get justice for ourselves. This call from the longshoremen is an invitiation to all working people to make the worst fears of our oppressors come true. If we succesully organize a general political strike for the 23rd, there is no doubt that he would receive the maximum sentence. Hell they might even give him the death penalty if we really shake things up. But the real justice will come when we come out of this struggle with a new level of militancy, consciousness and organization that can liberate us from the cycle of exploitation, incarceration, and imperialization. When we not only make an example out of a racist killer cop, but build a movement that can eliminate the structures that create racist killer cops, that is when we will have justice for Oscar Grant. So please take this resolution to your union, and go on strike on October 23rd! Get your union to build for a strike and rally on the 23rd!

Below is a model resolution for Support of October 23 ILWU Rally for Justice for Oscar Grant

Resolution in Support of October 23 ILWU Rally for Justice for Oscar Grant

Whereas, Oscar Grant’s killer, BART police officer Johannes Mehserle received a verdict of involuntary manslaughter on July 8, 2010 and will be sentenced on November 5; and

Whereas, video tapes show clearly that Oscar Grant was lying face down on the Fruitvale BART platform, waiting to be handcuffed with another cop’s boot on his neck posing no threat when he was shot in the back and killed in cold blood by Mehserle; and

Whereas, wherever employers try to break a strike, police are there to protect the scabs and attack workers, as we know from the 1934 West Coast Maritime Strike, to the Charleston Five longshore struggle in 2000;  and

Whereas, black and brown racial minorities, and especially immigrant workers today, struggling for equal rights have borne the brunt of police violence; and

Whereas , Oscar Grant’s killing is another manifestation of the same  unjust system where the message for the poor, the working class,  and people of color is submission or death; and

Whereas,  ILWU Local 10 has initiated the call for a mass labor and community protest rally on Saturday October 23, 2010 in Oakland’s Frank Ogawa Plaza calling for justice for Oscar Grant in the sentencing of Johannes Mehserle,

Therefore be it Resolved, that (name of organization) endorses this rally along with other labor unions, community groups, civil rights organizations, civil liberties organizations and will help to mobilize for this rally for justice for Oscar Grant;

An Injury To One Is An Injury To All.

25 responses to “Start Building for 10/23 – Work Stoppage Against Police Brutality

  1. Excellent peice folks and good luck with the mobilizing.

    We’ll do our best up here to build solidarity. There has been a recent round of police murders in Seattle. A First Nations man named John T. Williams was shot by a cop. The cop claimed he had a “threatening” knife but it was a legal 3 inch pocket knife he was using to make Native carvings. He is a skilled woodcarver from a family that has been doing carvings for generations. This is the third case of high profile racist police brutality in the past 6 months and Williams was one of 5 people killed by the police in one week.

    Despite that, the response here has been muted, nothing like the upsurge of Black and Brown power in Oakland. The liberal non-profit and Democratic-party affiliated leadership (the equivalent of CAPE) has called a few rallies and most have been small. While everyday folks in the crowd have expressed a lot of militancy linking this to 500 years of colonialist violence against indigenous peoples, the leadership has been very accommodating, calling for peace with the mayor and police chief and even giving a city council member a gift representing peace and dialogue. It’s depressing as hell.

    I think this is partly a result of the counter-insurgency campaign after the WTO uprising…. the police realized they had been too lenient in letting people organize and too violent in trying to contain the effects of that so now they come down harder on working people to strike fear and then have all sorts of cooptation mechanisms like ethnic-based advisory councils to “dialogue” with communities of color and social-democratic community outreach forums, social clubs, block barbecues, basketball teams, etc. to try to build legitimacy for the Seattle pigs. It’s really sick but unfortunately it has really helped them recover some authority after they were shaken to the core by the 99 uprising.

    The biggest challenge is to break through all of that to initiate another cycle of struggle. The liberal leaders have so far been able to control folks’ anger and have successfully shut up rank and file indigenous people and other people of color who have tried to express direct anger against the police. People in our group have been agitating and making contacts but there is not yet a critical mass of folks who are willing to go farther than the liberal leadership. At least not at these demonstrations. I have a feeling there are thousands or hundreds of thousands of people out there who want the police to disappear but don’t feel going to a rally will do anything about it and they’re just waiting for something bigger to happen.

    That’s where the example of what ya’ll are doing in Oakland is key. One point we’ve been making is the need to link up the struggle with the Bay Area Oct 23rd action and other struggles going on in LA, Portland, and Vancouver. The problem is the Seattle Left is too small and fragmented to pull something off on the 23rd. We’re discussing with folks what will it take to get to that point? In the meantime, we are linking up the struggle against police murders with our own specific struggles against police harassment of the student-worker anti-budget cuts movement at University of Washington, especially the custodian labor struggle which is starting to heat up a bit again. After one of the UW custodians went to the media about police harassment workers were facing at the hands of the campus cops, the Seattle Police started following him around and harassing him. We’ve been pointing out how this is a concrete example of how the state uses the cops to enforce the budget cuts, and we’ve been trying to show how we can defeat these intimidation tactics if we unite the various movements and get organized. We’ll see where it all goes.

    I fully agree with Rebelde’s piece about linking up the movement against state violence with the movement against budget-cuts. We may post on Gathering Forces some of the literature we’ve been distributing locally in working class communities to try to make all these connections.

    In the meantime, keep up the great work ya’ll, you’re an inspiration to those of us in places that have not yet made these breakthroughs. I am 100% sure that if you pull off a strike, let alone a general strike, it will cause a lot of working people here to question why we can’t do more.

  2. The ILWU in 1939 als0 refused to cross a picket line of Chinese children in San Francisco who were protesting the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, and after WW2 they backed up some Indonesian sailors who refused to sail on a ship bringing weapons to the U.S.-backed Dutch regime. Proletarian internationalism against state violence can go a long way. In what other workplaces can we cultivate such solidarity?

  3. October 23rd is a Saturday, right?

    Why not a work stoppage on November 5th to coincide with sentencing?

  4. Oh right, we’re still living in the 1930s.

  5. Nah, it ain’t ’30s, it’s wildcat actions today (& yesterday). Check this out:

    Apparently Del Monte Corporation just agreed to negotiate tonight (after midnight Thursday, Pacific Time), ending the East Coast wildcat actions which were spread by flying pickets. Apparently workers were protesting the loss of 200 longshoring jobs at the Camden, N.J. port.

    But the flying pickets spread the wildcat to most New York Harbor ports, which include those in New Jersey state, as well as to Philadelphia and Baltimore.

    It lasted 2 days, Tuesday and Wednesday, and was non-sanctioned and received little official union support, as well as being in direct defiance of a court injunction.

    This is what could happen on the West Coast when longshore workers do an Oscar Grant solidarity action.

  6. The ultra-left have a tendency toward opportunism. More often than not, that opportunism leads to a replacement of reality for wishful thinking. The premise of this current post is precisely nothing but wishful thinking. The 10/23 rally is not a “WORK STOPPAGE.” At the organizing meetings for this event, {{a member of ILWU 10} moderator edit} made it painstakingly clear that what the ILWU is doing is not a work stoppage but merely holding their membership meeting on Saturday, October 23. He politely insisted that the ultra-left do not (once again) become overcome by their own delusional wishful thinking and call it a “work stoppage.” That’s not what it is. It’s not even close to what it is. That’s not what it is in the minds of the workers who may participate. No matter how much one may wish workers were ready to go on strike over this it is not the case yet. And any leftist or marxist who says workers are ready or are going on strike over this is delusional at best, but definitely should not call him or herself a marxist because marxism actually is rooted in materialism not the petty wishes inside your ultra-leftist head. It’s not a work stoppage. Honor reality because reality actually matters.

    • if its not a work stoppage, then why did they plan to have the meeting in the middle day?? are you so dismissive of the workers’ mental abilities that you assume they dont notice that they aren’t working down at the dock at the normal hour?

      of course its a work stoppage. work stops, its a work stoppage.

  7. One question that comes up for me is: how do we measure the success of these efforts? It’s great that the ILWU 10 is putting this energy forward, but how do we gauge its outcomes? I think this activity is pretty different from the wildcat on the East Coast. But that doesn’t mean it couldn’t have its own yardstick(s) for success.

    Like, do we keep count of how many unions/workplaces adopt this resolution in support of the October 23rd rally? Do we know how many have so far?

    If people show up to this Oct 23 rally, what is a reasonable ideal outcome? Is it based on turnout? Is it based on follow-up, like facilitating a series of labor-community history study groups or documentary showings for interested people?

    I’d love to see a more detailed articulation of what is the strategy behind this angle, whether and why it fits with the current organizing capacity of the groups behind it, and what its short-term aims are. I ask these questions in a spirit of openness, enthusiasm, and gratitude for all the work being put into building for the 23rd, and as someone who has flyered for it myself. (Even in the face of sexual objectification from the people I was flyering to. Not that harassment is so out-of-the-ordinary, just thought it was relevant to showing the extent of my commitment. 🙂

    thanks, y’all


  8. gipc:

    I don’t think it’s too hard to see what my comment means. AtS makes a fetish of the strike, based on examples from the 1930s and, in general, a very different time period in American history.

    Now, let me say that I’m hella down with this work stoppage and political unity between the workers and the movement to end police brutality. But havent longshoremen been staging such symbolic protests for decades? How will this be different? Do folks think this is the main avenue of struggle against white supremacy?

    The poster James Bliss, on the article “Moving Beyond Violence vs Non-Violence” puts it best for me:

    “And that is why I think the folks writing here rely on such an outdated bibliography. You all talk about general strikes as though de-industrialization and neo-liberalism never happened.”

    But, if I’m wrong, I’m open to be schooled.

  9. “But, if I’m wrong, I’m open to be schooled.”

    O.K., here goes:

    There are 16,500 troqueros working the combined port complex at Los Angeles and Long Beach. The voice of global capital, the Financial Times (as opposed to the mouthpiece of U.S. capital, the Wall Street Journal), had a frontpage story on Tuesday, May 2, 2006 saying that these troqueros had shut the LA/LB port complex by “90%.” I met some of these short-haul port truckers, who corrected me and said it was closer to 99%. That’s significant because LA/LB is the busiest cargo container port in the Western Hemisphere (5th busiest in the world). Commodities worth $300,000,000,000 come through them each year, the overwhelming majority coming from China and more goods are bound for Wal-Mart than any other corporate destination.

    But these mostly troqueros were just one part of a nationwide General Strike on May Day 2006, against the racist, anti-immigrant Sensenbrenner Bill (officially The Border Protection, Anti-terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005, H.R. 4437). Hundreds of cities across North America were struck by Latina/os, like Houston, Chicago, and ones in the Bay Area, like Oakland, where marches went from the San Leandro city line and marched over 100 blocks, doubling in size through the Fruitvale, before arriving with over 40,000 strikers in downtown Oakland. It was the biggest demonstration there since the 1946 General Strike.

    Smaller cities like Modesto, in the economically ravished Central Valley, had marches of 15,000 which were the largest numbers since the UFW organizing drives of the mid-1960s.

    And you know what, it worked. The 2006 May Day General Strike forced Congress to withdraw H.R. 4437.

    The same can be said for the nationwide student strikes — amounting to general strikes of youth — in France in 2006 that forced the government to abandon the CPE bill, also called the “Kleenex” bill because it would have made young workers disposable.

    The city of Oaxaca in Mexico also had mass strikes of teachers in 2006, that escalated to an occupation of a university and take-overs of radio and TV stations as the whole city was paralyzed by these strike actions.

    Since the police murder of Aleksandros Grigoropoulos on December 6, 2008, Greece has been rocked by riots, strikes and an insurrectionary rebellion. Same in Spain at this very moment.

    Last summer, over 1,000 workers at the Ssangyong Motors plant in Pyeontaek, South Korea went on strike and occupied their plant for 77 days, valiantly defending their action with Molotov Cocktails and weapons improvised in the factory.

    And it could go on and on. I could spent the rest of the day attempting to document some of the wildcat strikes currently occurring in China — and I’d still only be able to mention a fraction of them. The Honda strike in China, began at the beginning of the summer, was the catalyst for other wildcat actions throughout China all summer.

    Our challenge is to show how ALL these forms of class struggle need to link up, generalize in supporting each other in solidarity, and push beyond borders to be truly internationalist. Only then could we offer a real threat to capitalism.

  10. jaunito – of course YOU don’t think it’s hard to understand what YOUR comment means dear. you’re the one who wrote it. don’t be daft. hopefully you will pardon me for not right away catching on to your clever, flat sarcasm. but in the meantime quit being rude and arrogant.

    what is the logic of juanito’s post anyway?

    why is s/he gonna come out all rude–it’s gotta be cuz s/he’s very special and important and has something important to say…right? so the point–is the point that people shouldn’t talk about strikes?–or that they shouldn’t talk about the ’30s?

    what is juanito’s follow-up argument? “this isn’t the 1930s.”–is that the argument? everyone knows it’s the not the 1930s, so that can’t be the actual point of his/her post: to inform us that the date is in fact october 2010, surely everyone knows that much.

    maybe the point is about neo-liberalism and de-industrialization. is the point simply to argue that these processes took place? juanito makes no COMMENT WHATSOEVER as to how those processes have changed the american landscape. is his conclusion that because of deindustrialization there can no longer be strikes? or that because of neo-liberalism marxists shouldn’t talk about strikes anymore? at least heironymous makes some analysis of how conditions are. surely juanito has some response to that. maybe he’ll point out that in fact it’s not 2006.

    juanito simply refers to neoliberalism and deindustrialization and assumes that by thinking about neo-liberalism and de-industrialization that we should all somehow come to the same conclusion. what conclusion we should all share is NEVER elaborated. in other words, is juanito arguing that ‘de-industrialization’ means that there’s no industry in the US anymore? or that there can’t be strikes anymore? or that people shouldn’t strike? or that they shouldn’t talk about strikes?

    there is no consistent logic to juanito’s post. it’s all over the place. plus no significant analysis. just a couple of claims, shrouded in sarcasm, driven by some sort of weird pessimism or apathy or something…

    heironymous already elaborated an interesting story of class struggle in the US in this era.

    without any analysis on this front (any analysis of the terrain of contemporary class struggle), it’s hard to tell what jaunito’s point or argument might be.

    so, if you’re not gonna make a point, use substantive analysis, of craft a coherent argument, at least don’t be sarcastic and narcissistic. it makes you look like a jerk.

  11. Hieronymous:

    That wasn’t a schooling. You simply stated that strikes happen. We all know that. Its a good thing.

    My question was and remains:

    “Now, let me say that I’m hella down with this work stoppage and political unity between the workers and the movement to end police brutality. But havent longshoremen been staging such symbolic protests for decades? How will this be different? Do folks think this is the main avenue of struggle against white supremacy?”


    No one said strikes were wrong, or that strikes shouldn’t happen or that there’s nothing to learn about the 1930s. My post was, more than anything, posing a problematic that I hoped AS folks would clarify, and it is revealing that the thrust of my post (which I reposted above for hieronymous) hasn’t been touched on at all. Instead I got hit with the usual asshole pedagogy. Not a way to win people over.

    But keep evading it.

  12. Instead of lowering yourself to calling people names, how about answering the question yourself.

    I’ll reframe it:

    Do you, Juanito, think that this action is a struggle against white supremacy? Why? Or why not?

    If not, what kind of action do you suggest?

    Also, how is your pedagogy any different?

    It’s easy to pose loaded questions, but more importantly: what’s your position?

  13. Yes, I do think this is an action against white supremacy.

    How is my pedagogy different? If I came off as an asshole, forgive me, but I mainly had some good questions to ask. I’m somewhat unaffiliated and am looking to get involved. So thats where AS’ bad pedagogy comes in, despite all its talk about Freire and Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

    And what makes you think I have a clear-cut position on this? The reason I came here was for clarity, and still have seen nothing of it.

  14. Juanito writes:

    “The reason I came here was for clarity, and still have seen nothing of it.”

    And you probably never will. If you want answers that demand “clarity,” perhaps you’re better off with a guru, a fortune teller, or the leader of a sectarian leftist party who’d be happy to show you her/his party’s newspaper that expresses truth with clock-like regularity (much like the broken clock that’s right twice a day).

    We need to approach such things with an practical unity of theory and practice, where there are no “a priori” answers that can be dispensed with at will. It’s only in the process of struggle that your questions can be answered.

    Radical change requires a dialectical methodology where theory is grounded in practice — and vice versa. Since most of us were educated and conditioned by the institutions of this society (family, schools, church, mass media, etc.), it’s near-impossible to think outside the logic of the dominant system.

    So if you went to high school in the U.S., your history or social studies textbooks taught you that strikes were a phenomenon of the 19th century and “don’t work” anymore. Jean Anyon’s brilliant study “Ideology and U.S. History Textbooks” (Harvard Educational Review Vol. 49,
    Number 3) points out that nearly all high school textbooks teach about only three strikes – the 1877 Great Upheaval railroad strike, the 1892 Homestead Steel Strike, and the 1894 Pullman Strike on the railroads – and all of them were brutally violent and all three ended in bitter defeat. The message is that striking is something that used to happen in the 19th century and to cast doubt on “striking as a valid course of action” today. The presupposition is that we live in a classless society. Class struggle was something that ended in the past, so all we can hope for is piecemeal gains according to our individual merit.

    This pedagogy repeatedly fills our brains with this mantra: There Is No Alternative (UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s famous TINA) to capitalism. We’re taught to see ourselves as merely individuals who are incapable of challenging the oppressions and injustices of the world-as-it-exists.

    We’ve all be mystified in varying degrees. But Marx offers a possible process out of this cloud of confusion:

    “All social life is essentially practical. All mysteries which lead theory to mysticism find their rational solution in human practice and in the comprehension of this practice.

    (Theses On Feuerbach VIII)

    So the only way to overcome this confusion, these unanswered questions, is through practice. Which simply means “by doing.” And we comprehend our practice through critical self-reflection and this gives rise to consciousness. We become aware our roles as historical subject and revolutionary agent.

    So what will the longshore action accomplish? Come out on October 23rd, bring your militant spirit, and find out. We ALL might learn something. Because, to paraphrase Rosa Luxemburg, “we learn to fight by fighting.”

  15. Yea, thanks.

  16. Mmm. Again, coming as a fellow thread reader, supporter, and seeker of clarity.

    Juanito, I personally appreciate your question about the impact of the Oct 23 rally. At the same time, the sarcasm and bareness of your first comment made it seem to me like your intention was to smash or provoke, rather than engage in a respectful, open way. I’m glad to hear that your actual intention is to connect, build, and seek truth. And I would ask that you bear in mind that your thread comments, and the sarcasm, aggression, generosity or genuineness therein, help shape a dialogue environment not just for yourself and A/S members, but for other readers like me, and those less visible.

    I’d ask the same understanding of “reality,” “gipc” (while I appreciated the open inquiry of your first response to Juanito, found the follow-up disheartening), and “Hieronymous,” whose historical points are well-taken (you know I love your encyclopedic, impassioned knowledge), but seem to me to miss the mark on Juanito’s actual questions, coming across instead as un-generous lecturing.

    I hope that folks will not see this as a wasted comment, or nit-picking about tone. In the spirit of shared emphasis on pedagogy, and healthy group culture, I would submit that the ways in which we interact with and treat one another—even online—contribute to the larger revolutionary project.

    So anyway. To maybe repeat my first question (this time toward Hieronymous?), do you think we have means of measuring the levels of struggle around OG work stoppages, and our own contributions to advancing them, besides building for the rally on the 23rd? Do we count the number of unions who have adopted this resolution? Do we count the number of strikes, after the fact? If we do learn of a work stoppage, do we organize folks to show up on-site in support, and contribute that way? Friendly question.

  17. Kloncke, thanks for impelling us to discuss this in good faith.

    You said I missed the mark in answering Juanito’s questions, so here’s another try:

    Juanito wrote:

    “But havent longshoremen been staging such symbolic protests for decades? How will this be different?”

    You’re partially correct. The ILWU Longshoring Division hasn’t had an official strike since 1971, but they’ve had lots of job actions that went well beyond symbolism. In my opinion, shutting down any workplace — even for just one day — is radical. Same with boycotts. Especially at a port because with the just-in-time production system it really fucks up the capitalists’ ability to deliver commodities to markets on-time and causes serious economic damage.

    But these politicized job actions are nothing new; in 1919 longshore workers in both Seattle and San Francisco refused to load armaments onto ships to supply forces trying to crush the Russian Revolution.

    For 10 days in 1984 longshore workers in Local 10 refused to unload a ships from apartheid South Africa. I was at a rally at the Oakland Coliseum in 1990 to celebrate Nelson Mandela’s release from prison and personally heard him, from the stage, thank Bay Area longshore workers for playing an important role in bringing down de Klerk’s apartheid regime.

    The longshore workers did a work-stoppage in May 1999 to protest against the death sentence for Mumia Abul-Jamal, joining a San Francisco march of tens of thousands chanting “An injury to one is an injury to all! Free Mumia Abu-Jamal!”

    And there are the above mentioned boycotts and work-stoppages in solidarity with struggles in Chile, El Salvador, and striking workers in Liverpool, England.

    The latter was the 3-day successful picket against the “Neptune Jade” scab ship, the voyage of which originated on the struck docks of Liverpool. Students in the Labor Studies Club at Laney College were sued, along with the picket captain, for $300,000 for damages due to their role in effectively bolstering the picket line. This caused a craze on campus with many students wearing buttons saying “I picketed the ‘Neptune Jade’.”

    The “Neptune Jade” sailed out of SF Bay unloaded, to have longshore workers refuse to unload it at each subsequent port. Rumor has it that the ship was abandoned at a port in Taiwan and was sold, along with it’s cargo, for salvage. (The I.W.W. website has links to many articles about this action: )

    The 2008 May Day work-stoppage was for one-shift at 29 ports on the West Coast and these kinds of actions really piss the capitalists off because it’s a monkeywrench thrown into the gears of global commerce, although for a day. It costs them millions just the same. I was doing the math after my above post and the combined LA/Long Beach port complex moves well-over 1/2 a billion dollars in commodities EVERY DAY! The ruling class does notice.

    The success of the “Neptune Jade” boycott was one of the ideas that influenced the April 7, 2003 anti-war demo at the Port of Oakland. That was the infamous attempted blockade of the gates of the Stevedoring Services of America (SSA) and American Presidents Line (APL) terminals because both corporations were heavily involved in supplying war materiel and operating ports as an integral part of the war on Iraq. The fact that the Oakland pigs came out shooting, literally without the slightest provocation, their wooden and rubber bullets and throwing their teargas-concussion grenades showed that the most effective target had been chosen. The police’s over-the-top and brutal response was due to the importance of the port to international trade. Some of the organizers, including a couple members of the ILWU, had hoped that the anti-war pickets would draw the longshore workers in, but the police may have responded so violently to prevent that from happening. It worked, but also showed us how important — and vulnerable — the ports and other conduits of transportation can be.


    Juanito’s other question was:

    “Do folks think this is the main avenue of struggle against white supremacy?”

    As far as the avenue of struggle against white supremacy, that would be hard to answer. Sure, it would show solidarity from a predominantly African American union for a murdered African American worker (Oscar Grant was in UFCW and worked as a butcher). It might be the beginning of a process of linking race and class struggle, but I really don’t know where the action is headed and what role the longshore workers will play in it. And as someone above mentioned, it’s not even certain yet that the ILWU will have a work-stoppage — is there any new info?

    and kloncke’s questions were:

    “do you think we have means of measuring the levels of struggle around OG work stoppages, and our own contributions to advancing them, besides building for the rally on the 23rd? Do we count the number of unions who have adopted this resolution? Do we count the number of strikes, after the fact? If we do learn of a work stoppage, do we organize folks to show up on-site in support, and contribute that way?”

    To be honest, I really don’t know. I’ve been extremely busy these days, so I haven’t been involved in the organizing. But since you asked, I’m hoping that it does spread into a larger struggle that draws in other unions, non-unionized sectors of the working class and everyone who wants to put up a political fight to challenge the cops getting away with blatant murder. Which was racist in every aspect. How do we judge the success of the protest? I guess by gathering our comrades and coming out in force and evaluating it as it happens. If ILWU does some kind of stop-work meeting, we try to get other sectors of the working class — our own, hopefully — to join it in solidarity. But at best we meet new comrades, strengthen ties with our allies, and learn from the experience about the possibilities for future actions. And when we do those future actions, we look self-critically about how they can be made more radical and more effective. From the history of struggles at the ports, we have lots to compare it with as well as examples to be inspired by.

    I agree with the need to destroy white supremacy, but also recognize it’s a legacy of history that’s rooted in the slave trade, colonialism and imperialism. Namely, the racist institutions created by capitalism. But this oppression is not universally experienced the same way in different parts of the world. I point this out because another example of longshore workers taking the lead in opposing new forms of inter-capitalist rivalry were the South African dock workers who in 2008 refused to unload Chinese ships with weapons bound for the Mugabe regime, to be used to crush opposition in Zimbabwe. That’s true internationalism and in the same spirit of working class solidarity represented by the militant actions of Bay Area longshore workers. (Here’s a link to a story about the South African dockworkers’ refusal: )

    Sorry for the length of this post; I felt compelled to answer the questions thrown at me.

    See ya on October 23rd.

  18. Last Friday (October 9) dock workers at the oil terminal in Marseilles, France went on strike. It ended yesterday, but other Mediterranean oil terminals remain on strike. These actions are in opposition to attempts to privatize the ports, as well as to stop the French government’s pension reforms and other attacks on working class living conditions. It’s doubtful that the CGT-led actions can go beyond symbolism, but there is still the potential that it could become more militant — especially with the two-fisted threat of both shutting down the port in addition to cutting off the fuel supply.

    This could get interesting and it would be great if Bay Area longshore workers were aware of what their fellow workers are doing elsewhere. It would be inspiring if ports around the world could link up their struggles with internationalist solidarity.

    Here’s the news story:

  19. France, among several other countries, is currently being rocked by a week-long series of strikes — which have spread from workplaces to schools. Roughly 900 of France’s 4,302 high schools were on strike yesterday (Friday, October 15), of which 550 were occupied.

    All 12 of Frances refineries are currently shut down and parts of the country are experiencing fuel shortages.

    Here’s a link to some more detailed updates:

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