Monthly Archives: February 2012

Longview, Occupy, and Beyond: Rank and File and the 89% Unite!

This piece is written by the Black Orchid Collective in Seattle, with contributions from members of Advance the Struggle in the Bay area, members of Hella 503 in Portland, as well as friends in various cities.  We have all been deeply involved in Decolonize/ Occupy SeattleOccupy PortlandOccupy Oakland, and Occupy Wall St., including the Dec. 12th West Coast Port Shutdown. We have worked to build solidarity between the Occupy movement and the rank and file workers of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU). This piece presents our critical reflections on these struggles so far. We welcome criticism and discussion.

Table of Contents:

I) Longview and Occupy: a warm autumn on the West Coast

II) Birth of the hip hop picket line: the Dec 12th West Coast Port Shutdown and the precarious proletariat.

III) From Dec 12th to Jan 6th: attempts at coastal solidarity, and divisions in Seattle

IV) Our response to Socialist Worker newspaper’s article

V) Workers’ Committees : a stronger fightback under capitalism, pointing toward revolution

VI) Solidarity is a Two Way Street

VII) Critiques of existing union structures

a) Question of Bureaucracy

b) Partial worker self-management under Capitalism, or Territorialism?

c) Labor Law as a Broken Truce

VIII) The Solidarity we actually need

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I) Longview and Occupy: a warm autumn on the West Coast

In Longview, Washington, multinational corporation EGT is attempting to operate a new grain export terminal by using non-ILWU (scab) labor.   In September, workers faced police in riot gear in order to stop scab grain from being delivered to EGT’s terminal.  Workers and their families have used their bodies to block trains bringing grain shipments to the terminal. When police beat them back, hundreds of longshore workers came back the next day and dumped the grain all over the tracks. Since then, Longview ILWU members have faced fines, injunctions on picketing, and ongoing police harassment and repression.

The Occupy movements in our cities have also blockaded the flow of capital with picket lines and barricades.  Both the Occupy movement and longshore workers have challenged what is considered common sense and legitimate under capitalism, opening up new possibilities for creative class struggle against the corporations who are destroying our lives. But attempts to bring these struggles together have been filled with tension.

Some members of the ILWU, including the international leadership, do not want the ILWU to work with Occcupy, while rank and file members and other leaders have reached out to us.  We have no desire to be caught in these debates among union members anymore than we unfortunately already are. Our intention is only to build broad solidarity with rank and file ILWU members who have asked for our support.

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