Occupy, ILWU, EGT and the Coming Class Battles

What follows is a controversial contribution to the discourse around the past year of struggle that Occupy forces have been involved in regarding the various port shutdowns on the West Coast, the relationship to the ILWU, and the challenge to capital’s attack on the proletariat – waged, unwaged, unionized, non-unionized, identifying as workers and not identifying with work.  There are many discussions and debates which the content of this intervention has already started – in person, behind closed doors, on list-serves, and at national conferences.  Our expectation is that publishing it here will allow for these debates to become more accessible to all revolutionaries, activists, members of organizations, and independent radicals.  Please add your thoughts in the comments section. All criticism, disagreement, appreciation and further lines of questioning are welcomed – we only ask that you do so in principled ways that avoid strawmanning the arguments presented here, as well as the arguments put forward by new writings and comments which will be forthcoming.  Enjoy.

Occupy, ILWU, EGT and the Coming Class Battles.

Union agrees to support the Employer in maintaining operations, including: promptly advising the Employer that any Work Stoppage is unauthorized; declaring publicly that such action is unauthorized, if questioned; and promptly ordering its members to return to work notwithstanding the existence of any wildcat picket line.

                                                                                 -EGT & ILWU local 21 contract

Capital itself is the moving contradiction, [in] that it presses to reduce labour time to a minimum, while it posits labour time, on the other side, as sole measure and source of wealth.

                                                                                                -Karl Marx

I. Introduction

II. The Fight for ILWU Jurisdiction

III. ILWU Class Struggle History

IV. Occupy, Surplus Populations and the Spectacle of Blockades.

V. Social Movement Unionism

VI. Automation, Accumulation and the State

VII. Rank-File, Union Leaders and Capital

VIII. Contract Time

IX. Labor White, Black and Brown, Shut the Ports Down!

X. The December 12th, 2011 experience

XI. Classwide Organizing

XII. Our Future


___________________________________________________

I. Introduction

December 12th, 2011, 6:30 AM: over a thousand participants congregate outside of West Oakland BART in the winter cold, smoking cigarettes, drinking lukewarm coffee, and anticipating the coming battle  – the shutdown of Oakland’s port. With little expectation as to how the day would unfold, the march traveled through a concrete jungle of freeways riddled with container trucks and police in riot gear. On December 12, 2011, 1500 Occupy Oakland participants successfully shut down the port. Actions all over the West Coast, Hawaii, the South, parts of Canada as well had solidarity actions.  The West Coast shutdown now stands as one of the highlights of the Occupy movement, attempting to stand and fight with the small International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 21 against a Fortune 500 corporation, Export Grain Terminal (EGT).

A new radical movement swept the Bay Area and the rest of the country, a social experiment that peaked and than morphed into something else, but nonetheless unfolded a young and new force against American capitalism. The world was watching the dynamism of the movement, through its direct action and its targeted campaigns. Organizers and activists were armed with new visions for the future, but many were also recasting historical lessons and symbols, and at times referenced and defended the material gains of past class struggle experiences; most notably the Oakland 1946 general strike and San Francisco 1934 general strike.

The spirit of the West Coast 1934 Longshore strike, where rank-and-file longshore workers overthrew their old union leadership, the ILA, and won radically new conditions in the workplace, clashed with the present activity of EGT and its sponsored grain terminal in Longview, Washington. This high-tech terminal was designed to speed up work and lay the ground work of expelling the ILWU from their jurisdictional stronghold: the ports. Operating Engineers Local 701 were raiding ILWU Local 21’s jurisdiction, opening up the cracks for ILWU to lose port jurisdiction — one of the central gains of the 1934 general strike. This was an attempt to flood port-based work with unions who accept work without any of the labor solidarity principles ILWU has fought for. Such a shift would then lead to nonunion labor working at the ports, a Walmartization of a workplace that is now controlled by one of the most militant unions in the country.

The Occupy movement saw this glaring conflict, and struck at it with all its might. But the mighty forces of Occupy coupled with some ILWU support did not suffice to fully defeat EGT. EGT moved into its offensive, being supported by the ILWU international bureaucracy, and is continuing to move forward in a plot against Longshore union power — a plot that aims to return to pre-1934 conditions.

The Occupy Movement has been a success to the extent that it transformed the radical imagination of what is possible and to the extent that it was a rupture which opened up forms of struggle that cannot be as easily controlled by the capitalist system. However, serious reflection must be done on the labor struggles Occupy has directly engaged in. There is a political contradiction that needs to be addressed. This contradiction emerges partly from the absence of clear political perspective, and absence of existing fighting organizations that can last through time. Within the movement, there was the militant ILWU local 21 fighting tooth and nail to defend jurisdiction, social movement unionist who wanted to combine the union movement with Occupy in an uncritical way, and surplus population insurgents who saw the precarious working class as being a new street proletarian force for economic blockades. The currents converged together creating a dynamic movement that still lost in the face of EGT-Bunge during the February 10, 2012 contract negotiations. Capitalism will continue to attack ILWU and go after all the hiring halls as it did in Longview, Washington. The political limits of union jurisdictionalism, surplus population insurgency as a strategy and social movement unionism falls flat in relation to the power of capital. What will unfold in next cycle of struggle when September 30, 2012 the grain contracts expire and 2014 when the Westcoast master contract expire? Revisiting the spirit of 1934, port workers of all stripes, union and non-union, should organizationally and politically unite in classwide committees to both defend the hiring halls and be in a position to go on a classwide offensive against capital.

II. The Fight for ILWU Jurisdiction

ILWU since 1934 has had control of all Westcoast ports as part of the gains of the 1934 general strike. The first cracks against this jurisdictional hold unfolded in our recent period. In April 2011, EGT walked out of talks with ILWU local 21 over the company’s demands for 12 hour shifts without overtime pay and other issues. Then in July, EGT subcontracted out Longshore work to another company, General Construction. The union who represents the workers of the company, Operators Engineers Local 71, is known as a scab union, who systematically have raided and undermined other union work, reducing workers’ pay, reducing the rights on the job, and allowing the capitalists to gain more power over the work process.

Longshore workers moved beyond the usual legalistic approaches of contemporary U.S. unions – approaches which handcuff struggles into the confines of a court room.  Instead, they organized around the clock pickets against such scab labor entering the new terminal. The first notable battle was on September 7th, 2011. A 107-car grain train was to deliver the first ever shipment to the newly built 200 million dollar EGT terminal. Several hundred ILWU protesters stopped it for four hours until police confronted the workers with riot gear, tear gas and riffles loaded with rubber bullets. Longview Washington Police Chief Jim Dusch said, “In my 31 years in law enforcement, I’ve never seen a labor dispute like this.”

That very next morning, the level of insurgency escalated. At 4:30 AM, a clandestine attack took place against the terminal.  Grain was dumped from train cars, as a political message that EGT will not walk over the ILWU. By the  time law enforcement arrived en force, the workers, Dusch said,  “all left before we could mobilize some of our troops.”

At the same time, rank-file ILWU workers from all over Oregon state and Washington state spread a message that cranes are being locked up at 1:30pm in Longview. Through their already built horizontal networks of communication, ILWU workers mobilized 500 rank-file Longshore to drive to the Longview local and to the picket-line. 500 cars were driving in a circular manner creating a picket-line effect and jamming up the traffic to the port. Standing in between a war of position and a war of maneuver, a combined internal clandestine attack was reinforced by external circulating pickets.

On September 26th 2011, ILWU International President Robert McEllrath turned himself in to the sheriffs’ department due to a warrant for his arrest for being connected to the September 8th actions.  While he did that, Westcoast Longshoremen had a 30 minute work stoppage at all the ports. One shop steward on the shop floor stated, “ If anyone thinks that its ok for EGT to do what they are doing in Longview, then turn your resume in and find a new job. Today we are only striking for 30 minutes. Tomorrow a day, and then a week. We will create costs for PMA on to the EGT.”

The hierarchy from casual Longshore to A listers broke down, and a 30 minute workplace action took place across the Westcoast ports. Rank-file longshoremen demonstrated  coordinated action across the whole Westcoast and organized a short political strike against the state and its agents.

As a response, there were three forms of capitalist counterattack: financial, criminalization, and legal. The state’s two overt means of attack, financial and criminalization, were reinforced by the “neutral” arbitrator of labor conflicts, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). On September 30th, the Federal Court in Tacoma fined ILWU local 21 $250,000 for the September 8th actions. Throughout the months of conflicts, over $1,000,000 of fines were given to officials and members of ILWU local 21. The state arrested 135 longshore workers from July to September for their organizing jurisdictional resistance, including several arrests of ILWU President of Local 21 Dan Coffman. The “neutral” NLRB put forth a position that picket-lines of more than 16 people were illegal, and sought an injunction on Local 21 against the acts of dumping the grain.

III. ILWU Class Struggle History

May Day was born in the US, celebrated around the world, and was not brought back to the US until immigrants had the biggest march in American history in 2006. May Day was in 1886, where the whole working class united around the demands of only having to work 8 hours a day. Connected to this same class struggle electricity, sailors organized themselves against the vicious conditions of seeking job employment. The sailors , explained historian Nelson, “demanded that their union develop a method of hiring that would free them from enslavement to the crimps.” # After a month of founding the Coast Seamen’s Union in 1899,  Nelson argues, “For the first time anywhere in the world, seamen appointed their own job dispatcher and attempted to take control of the hiring hall process.” # Employers later took away the hiring hall and these initial strike waves lost. Union officials dismissed this demand as “impractical and even condemned it as a violation of the principle of freedom of choice.” # But the rank-file sailors continued to fight for the hiring hall. Between 1921 to 1934 port work was an open-shop with very little workers rights.

In 1934, for 83 days, San Francisco and Westcoast longshore workers shut the system down. At that time 60% of commerce in California was done through the San Francisco ports. In the 1920s, Australian worker militant Harry Bridges, along with members of the Communist Party and members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) joined together with the Maritime Workers Industrial Union (MWIU), in an attempt at forming an alternative revolutionary union. This projected failed.  An alternative network of worker militants began to release “The Waterfront Worker” that focused on the pressing issues of Longshore workers.  The militants of this group were part of the “Albion Hall group” that began organizing slowdowns at the docks for better conditions. After the International Longshore Association negotiated a weak contract, Harry Bridges led a movement to reject the contract. The committee fought for three main points: 1) all the ILA locals have a coast-wide agreement, 2) a union controlled hiring hall, and 3) 30 hours work for 40 hours pay.

Bruce Nelson illuminates on such strikes and their connection to the hiring hall.  In Baltimore, “As morale on the waterfront soared, the MWIU came forward with a proposal for the next major advance. On February 10, 1934, at a mass meeting of approximately seven hundred seamen, Roy Hudson suggested the formation of a centralized shipping bureau to take control of hiring away from the shipowners and the crimps. As soon as he had outlined his proposal, someone shouted, “Well, what are we waiting for?” The response was virtually unanimous. The next day the marine workers established their own Centralized Shipping Buereau (CSB), controlled by a united front committee of seamen, where men hired out on a rotary basis.”#

This Goliath strike rocked the whole west coast:

“The great West Coast maritime strike of 1934 erupted on May 9, as longshoremen walked off the job from San Diego in the south to the port of Bellingham near the Canadian border. One of the longshoremen’s major demands was for union control of hiring, and the MWIU pointed with pride to the precedent of the Centralized Shipping Bureau. Moreover, while the ISU affiliates vacillated on the sidelines, the MWIU’s membership played an important role in bringing seamen off the ships and transforming the stevedores’ walkout into a broader maritime strike.”# ILWU Local 10 writer, Herb Mills, points out, “The central demand of the long and bitter West Coast longshore strike of 1934 focused on the “shape-up”- the practice of hiring men from among those who showed up each morning at one or another of the pierheads.”# In retrospect Harry Bridges stated in 1949, “We got the hiring hall by united strength of the Westcoast maritime workers and their support by the rest of the ILWU and the labor movement, the shipowners weren’t able to take it away from us and no phony government agency can destroy it.”# The longshore strike started on May 9th. On July 3rd the police tried to break the picket-line on the Embarcadero in San Francisco. Violent attacks from the police, shots into the hiring hall, were common. On July 5th, known as “Bloody Thursday, two longshoremen were killed, with six workers killed throughout the events of the strike.  Workers of many different industries sought to expand the strike beyond Longshore as a response to Bloody Thursday. Bridges utilized such energy to propose that the San Francisco and Alameda labor councils join the strike.  On July 14th, the San Francisco Labor Council voted to call a general strike. The teamsters had been out already for two days. Non-union truck drivers joined the day after, and movies, clubs and an array of businesses were shutdown.  The pressure from workers “below” cracked through the political bureaucracy that was in control of the unions. This same bureaucracy in the Labor Council terminated the strike on July 16th. The power moved away from the Longshore rank-file, ending the strike. The origins of the 1934 strike came from a rank-and-file Longshore committee that had connections with truckers, sailors, unemployed, and consciously oriented towards Black community, with roots in the Black churches to create racial unity within the class struggle. With longshore rank-file at its core, coupled with truckers, sailors, unemployed, and the Black community, the Albion Hall Group was a classwide commitee for a working class offensive against capital.

However, seafaring unions demands had not been met, so longshore engaged in a strike in 1936 to complete its tasks that it began in 1934. That same year ILWU organized Hawaii, radically changing the landscape. It also reached out to Baltimore, and organized in Alaska and Canada. In 1947, ILWU had a strike against pineapple plantations in Hawaii who baited union organizers as agents of the Soviet Union. In 1948, Westcoast employers did the same, positing Harry Bridges with Soviet functionaries and attempting to deport him as a member of the Communist Party. President Truman was beginning his witch hunt against radical unions attempting to expel 11 unions of the CIO. The Federal government claimed that ILWU was preparing a strike that would cripple the Marshal Plan, and applied the Taft-Hartley Act to outlaw the hiring hall. The President also had the authority to declare an 80-day “cooling off” period. ILWU engaged in a 3.5 month strike that won, defending the hiring hall against the Taft-Hartley Act. In 1946, President Truman threatened to send in the coast guard to crush the ILWU. As a response, ILWU connected with Longshore locals around the world and defeated Truman’s threats. This global working class unity is still a living model for our current situation with a fragmented and disunited working class.

By 1957, both ILWU and PMA agreed that they could no longer ignore the problem of technology and automation. “When a ship is in port it loses money, it makes money when it is on the high seas. Speedier loading and discharge not only improves the ship’s turnaround but in the long run also increases the number of trips the vessel can make each year.” # The Modernization and Mechanization (“M&M”) Agreement in 1961 led to certain principals of compromise: “The longshore were entitled to a “share” of the machine. There would be no layoffs of registered longshoremen. The Mechanization and Modernization Agreement would provide a guarantee of work or earnings. If the unhindered introduction of new machinery and the new methods of work resulted in the curtailment of work opportunity so that the size of the work force had to be reduced, this would be done by shrinking the work force from the top.”# The share of the machine was for the PMA to contribute $5 million annually for 5.5 years. This was used for early retirement, cash vesting and death benefit features. Stan Weir shows how the M&M Agreement reinforced old categories of a three-tier hierarchy: : “A” and “B”and “casual.”

 

The B men are a permanent and regular section of the work force who get the

pick of the dirtiest and heaviest jobs that are left over after the A, or union, men

have taken their pick. After the B men, casuals hired on a daily basis get their

turn at the remainders. The casuals get none of the regular fringe benefits. . . .

[The B men] pay a pro-rata share of the hiring hall’s operating expenses, but

have no vote . . . they sit in a segregated section of the [union] meeting hall’s

balcony. #

 

The M&M contract also built up the port of Oakland to have more commodity traffic than San Francisco’s port. Ten years later we found it effects. From 1960 to 1970, cargo tonnage increase over 10% and productivity increased 85%. Longshore worked harder and faster while dealing with machinery being able to make their jobs obsolete. In 1971-72 longshore had a strike against the system of automation. ILWU Local 10 strike bulletin of October 4, 1971 stated, “We, like many other workers, are faced with a technological revolution of new ‘labor saving’ devices and methods of operation. This is what our employer means by ‘progress’ …but if this ‘progress’ is left unchecked, it will simply mean that our employer will line up at the bank with ever bigger profits. While we line up at the unemployment and welfare office.” Amazingly ILWU didn’t have much of a strike fund. Most of the profitable cargo was connected to US military equipment for Vietnam. The Canadian ILWU, with a different contract, didn’t strike and handled a sizable amount of the military cargo. Military freight trains also worked around ILWU’s strike. Harry Bridges refused to boycott military work, and openly strike against the federal government due to the threat of repression. The employers in early 1972, threatened an employer boycott of military cargo to cut off the strikers means of support. In August of 1972, the strike lost, and the Canadian ILWU, who worked overtime during the strike, were not only left striking alone, but with a decisive loss.

In 2002, ILWU was locked-out during contract negotiotions from Pacific Maritime Association with the Bush administration threatening to use the National Guard to run the ports. The PMA wanted to cut wages and hours due to their claim that activity along the waterfront was declining. ILWU argued that productivity actually increased. The lockout ended October 8th, and woke up the longshore to the reality of capitalist state sponsored attacks.

 

IV. Taft-Hartley, Automation and Jurisdiction; 2000-2002

 

              Containerization is the technological underpinning of the global economy.

You can bet your sweet ass that if all them transmissions was being hand-

handled and put on a pallet board and sent ashore, rather than 20 tons of

transmissions in a goddamned container box, transmissions’d still be built in

Detroit. The container has been the physical means of exploiting cheap labor

throughout the world.

                 —Herb Mills, ILWU Local 10 writer #

 

The fight over union jurisdiction has captured the attention of the left, ILWU, EGT and the courts. What has yet to be asked is the origins of this particular conflict. The answer to that question one would say the newly built $200 million dollar terminal in Longview. Its the first grain terminal to be built in 25 years in the US, allowing the distribution of commodities to reach 3,000 metric tons per hour, surpassing the existing port that is limited to 2,500 metric tons per hour, but often is run below such capacity due to ILWU contract rights and rank-file militancy. The capital invested in the automated terminal came from EGT, but the legal structure to allow for such investment came from the U.S. Commodity Futures Modernization Act signed into law by President Clinton in December 2000. Commodities as a derivative on the market jumped from $440 billion in 1998 to $7.5 trillion in 2007. Such commodities include the grains. The Commodity Futures Modernization Act made it easier for entities to engage in “Over the Counter” (OTC) trading as opposed to Exchange Trading. OTC allows two parties to directly exchange stocks, bonds, commodities, and derivatives with each other, whereas Exchange Trading is conducted under the oversight of a Stock Exchange. Both methods of trading require reporting and compliance with IRS codes and regulations; however, because OTC allows parties to engage in the trade of public and private stocks, bonds, derivatives, and commodities without the oversight of a Stock Exchange, it essentially allows parties to engage in faster and more aggressive trading.  The power of capital investment and accumulation in the grain industry is harnessed by the terminal, which speeds up the process of accumulation and reduces the necessary labor for such work. In other words, this forces an increases in speed and intensity of the work, leading to a higher dependence of Longshore labor on terminal machines.This simultaneous productive expansion and labor contraction creates a contradiction. Marx states in the Grundrisse, that, “Capital itself is the moving contradiction, [in] that it presses to reduce labour time to a minimum, while it posits labour time, on the other side, as sole measure and source of wealth.”#  The building of the terminal was done by non union workers, including 150 Guatemalan immigrants. Instead of looking at this logic of accumulation, most of the left looked at the evil corporation EGT, which 51% owned by Bunge Ltd, who is recorded in making $2.35 billion in profits in 2010.# In 2002, President Bush locked-out Longshore from contract negotiotions and threatened to use the national guard to run the ports applying the Taft-Hartly Act to the situation. Rank-file Longshore militantly defended their jobs, holding baseball bats to those who would dare attempt to take ILWU jobs. Panamax vessels is now rearranging the flow of ships, where Asian cargo will be moved through the Panama canal, bypassing westcoast ports to east coast ILA ports.

1886 to 1934 represented the first cycle of struggle attempting to establish a hiring hall. 1934 to 1961 represented a golden age for ILWU with union rank-file militancy on the shop floor and in contract negotiations. 1961 to 2000 was a period automation and leaning on the institutional gains of the past. 2000 to the present represents the intensity of financial  capital investment, hyper automation and the elimination of the Longview, Washington hiring hall. This new rocky era will be plagued with new class battles between the Maritime capitalist and the ILWU.

 

V. Occupy, Surplus Populations and the Spectacle of Blockades.

 

In contrast to the logic of false consciousness, which cannot truly know itself, the search for critical truth about the spectacle must also be a true critique.

 

                               Guy Debord,

                                                                                              -Society of the Spectacle

The November 2nd, 2011 Occupy Oakland’s “general strike” took the world by storm unfolding new radical social movement, with upwards of 30,000 participating in the march on the port. This was not a new form of a general strike, but thousands did leave work. Hundreds of workplaces were closed for the day. The Oakland Port was shutdown with some sympathy of Longshore workers, but still recognizing a general lack of Longshore workers not shaping the formation of November 2nd.

Some factions of Occupy Oakland developed a strategy of mobilizing layers of the working class outside of the workplace for economic blockades against the circulation of commodities. Many of these layers of the class are considered “surplus populations” by the capitalists because their labor can no longer be fully exploited in the workplace. They were thrown out of work by the process of automation of the workplace, which has ben continuous since the 1970s. Some revolutionaries in Occupy Oakland went so far as to argue that these layers of the proletariat are the new revolutionary subject.

Our comrades in the Bay of Rage, who have kept Occupy Oakland far left and anti-state, reflecting on November 2nd, and adding perspective on the December 12th shutdown, argues “Where workers in large workplaces –the ports, for instance– did withdraw their labor, this occurred after the fact of an intervention by an extrinsic proletariat. In such a situation, the flying picket, originally developed as a secondary instrument of solidarity, becomes the primary mechanism of the strike.”# The formation of workplace strikes, according to this, and reflective of November 2nd, is proletarian movements from outside workplaces that spark internal workplace struggle. This leads to a radically different conception of a strike. It re-centers strikes from the workplace to solely the streets. The Bay of Rage article continues, “The strike no longer appears only as the voluntary withdrawal of labor from a workplace by those employed there, but as the blockade, suppression (or even sabotage or destruction) of that workplace by proletarians who are alien to it, and perhaps to wage-labor entirely.” By applying this framework in analyzing the Longview struggle,

 

The ferocious actions by port workers in Longview, Washington – attempting to fight off the incursion of non-ILWU grain exporter EGT – recall this history in vivid detail. Wildcatting, blockading trains and emptying them of their cargo, fighting off the cops brought in to restore the orderly loading and unloading of cargo – the port workers in Longview remind us of the best of the labor movement, its unmediated conflict with capital. We expect to see more actions like this in this new era of austerity, unemployment and riot. Still, our excitement at the courage of Longview workers should not blind us to the place of this struggle in the current crisis of capitalism. We do not think that these actions point to some revitalization of radical unionism, but rather indicate a real crisis in the established forms of class struggle.

 

The political crisis within the established forms of class struggle, embodied in radical unionism, has demonstrated its own incapacity in fighting capital and austerity if we highlight Wisconsin and Longview as our key contemporary examples. But this conception of substituting unionized workers for workers who are “alien to the workplace” or “perhaps to wage-labor entirely” influenced the Occupy strategy it applied against mega-corporation EGT. The effect was muddling what workers struggle against capital  means. Some dominant tendencies in Occupy Oakland moved forward with forming its own revolutionary subject: Occupy itself, as the worker alienated from the workplace, which Occupy Oakland had plenty of. In muddling the union bureaucracy with the union rank-file, Occupy replaced the 64,000 ILWU rank-file in the Westcoast, and 2,000 Longshore in the Bay Area, and 2,000 independent truckers, for itself.

 

While the union leaders, stuck in their old ways of thinking and obeying the rules of the 1 percent, are unable to support the activity of large numbers of non-unionized workers, we, as the Occupy movement, have shown that we carry none of that legalistic baggage. We are the new phase of the workers.’ movement.(Italics added)

Carrying itself as the new “workers’ movement” it claimed that itself could challenge capitalism independently of the rank-file Longshore and independent truckers. Further more, to implement such logic, Occupy organizers for the December 12th shutdown claimed, “On December 12th we will show our collective power through pinpointed economic blockade of the 1%” (Italics added). Similarly, the call to Occupy the EGT ends with the statement, “To participate on December 12th and to shutdown the ports is to cut off the flow of capital, the lifeforce, of EGT and Bunge, and other capitalist companies, and to act in the favor of all those exploited by capitalism.” This calls into question whether exploitation can be overthrown from stopping the ports by marching on them from the outside. The origins of EGT’s lifeforce is the ongoing labor-power applied to harnessing grains and shipping them through the ports to be sold on the market. The matrix of labor used, agricultural production, packaging, transporting, shipping, unpacking, and selling of the grain product, is done by a complex and large division of labor, forming billions in profit for EGT. The totality of such a labor system that produces commodities in high demand, represents EGT’s lifeforce. A radical social movement composed of many people who are alienated from the workplace who are marching on the ports is merely poking at EGT’s life-force from a position of the outside, incapable of ripping out its internal roots. However, considering that we are moving out of a historical period of very low class struggle, this action is an opening shot, laying the ground work for more serious class struggle to unfold. Many would object and point out several ILWU individuals were involved. This is true. But their political involvement validated the movement as symbols of a larger political unity as opposed to organizing the majority of rank-file to shutdown the ports themselves.

This perspective of workers alienated from workplaces as the new revolutionary subject carries some weight. Occupy Oakland was composed largely of such people who did indeed engage in serious radical acts against the state and institutions of capital as they materially have nothing to lose. Occupy Oakland facilitated such radical subjects to form, and surface, entering in a struggle to directly occupy private property and rerun it a collective manner. But by definition of their composition, those alienated from work cannot shut off the flow of profits which originate in key workplaces. Economic blockades can only at best, temporarily interrupt capital flow from outside of where profits were formed and intersect against the circulation of capital as agents from the outside piercing into the ports. As capital is more fluid then ever, with trillions of dollars moving around the world in electronic format, economic blockades by dispossessed workers  can be met with some skepticism, due to the role transportation, and port workers, both Longshore and truckers, have in both running of the ports and shutting them down. Workers dispossessed from the workplace as the new revolutionary subject can be classified as ‘Surplus Population Insurgency.’

 

VI. Social Movement Unionism

 

The Occupy movement didn’t just substitute itself for unions. Surplus population insurgency was one current of many within Occupy. Many union members participated in the organizing of the shutdown. The limited ILWU rank-file support did make December 12th possible. As the Occupy movement had an alliance with ILWU local 21 against EGT, it broadened this Occupy ILWU Local 21 alliance to include many union members who wanted to bring in the “union movement.” The orientation to bring in the unions to unite with Occupy, was what many left groups championed.  ILWU Local 10                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          member Clarence Thomas stated, “When Governor Gregoire intervened a year ago nothing was settled – non-ILWU workers were still working in the port. It wasn’t until rank and file and Occupy planned a mass convergence to blockade the ship that EGT suddenly had the impetus to negotiate. Labor can no longer win victories against the employers without the community. It must include a broad-based Movement. The strategy and tactics employed by the occupy Movement in conjunction with rank and file ILWU members confirm that the past militant traditions of the ILWU are still effective against the employers today” (Italics added).# This statement attempts to reproduce ILWU’s militant past, based on rank-file shutdowns, into the contemporary politics of the Occupy movement that had only symbolic participation by a few rank-file Longshore. The “confirmation” of such unity muddles what is the effective strategy against the employer. In the context of a January 6th 2012 meeting in Seattle between Occupy and some ILWU local 19 rank-file to prepare for the first scab ship to come into Longview, staffers of the International,and some rank-file towing the line of the international, smelling of alcohol and making sexist remarks, initiated a larger conflict to brake up the meeting. This goal was justified through wanting to read out a letter written by president of ILWU International McEllrath. Instead of raising an inch of criticism of the roll of the ILWU bureaucracy played in braking up a political meeting, International Socialist Organization fights in their defence:

 

Allowing ILWU members to read the letter immediately may or may not have prevented the conflict from escalating. But this much is certain: There was no good reason not to allow it to be read. The letter, after all, is an official call to action from the democratically elected president of the ILWU. On the contrary, giving union officials the podium to read the letter would have made it easier to organize the widest possible official labor support for the Longview workers.# (Italics added)

 

What is important is to both abstract from such a statement its implicit political strategy concerning the ILWU leadership and look at the content of the letter. The letter states that is to “inform and prepare the Longshore Division locals for the action that we will take when that vessel calls at EGT’s facility.” ILWU International President McEllrath states:

The NLRB is currently seeking a second injunction, this time on behalf of PMA, on the theory that any disruption of work by the ILWU on  the West Coast docks at the same time that the Union is protesting EGT constitutes a violation of Taft-Hartley. However, we have no dispute with PMA or its member companies. Thus, any showing of support for Local 21 at the time that a vessel calls at the EGT facility must be measured to ensure that the West Coast ports have sufficient manpower so as not to impact cargo movement for PMA member companies. A call for a protest of EGT is not a call for a shutdown of West Coast ports and must not result in one. (Italics added)#

 

ILWU President McEllrath is arguing for a clear adaptation to capitalist law, and is openly attempting to eliminate any brewing radicalism amongst the rank-file that aspires to shutdown the ports. The justification by the ISO is building quantitative support to make it “easier to organize the widest possible official labor support” by giving the podium to union officials to build a “mass movement.” The political method for such support is for uniting the leadership of unions with the rank-file, and applying that unified unionism to social movements, becoming a massively united political body against capital. But such unity leads to more protesting,  not a shutdown of capitalist institutions. ILWU leadership smeared the December 12th Shutdowns with the capitalist media grabbing hold. One sharp rank-file Longshoreman publicly commented that the amount of political sabotaging the ILWU leadership did against December 12th, made the work for the capitalist media easy. The muddling of a clear perspective of the conservative and sabotaging role of the union leadership into the the potentially revolutionary movement of rank-file, is a common practice within the left, and was greatly harnessed by both union socialists and anarchists during the build up of December 12th, 2011. Social movement unionism, the political thinking that attempts to merge union leaders, rank-file and social movements was a particular current that penetrated as a strategy in the Occupy movement. At times social movement unionism worked harmoniously and other times in conflict with, surplus population insurgency. But the two merged into December 12th demonstrating its momentary strength and longterm weakness in the workers struggle

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………

We recognize that there are limits to our analysis and critique of the Occupy Movement.  We understand that challenging capitalism inside the workplace is extremely difficult, and problems and challenges that Occupy faced in this effort cannot all be traced to incorrect political perspectives.  We also acknowledge that there were class struggle currents in the West Coast Occupy movement that did not fall into the pitfalls  of surplus population insurgency and social movement unionism that we’ve critiqued here.

Our comrades in Seattle are working on a follow up piece that will analyze the activity of these tendencies, the problems they faced, and lessons they learned.  In particular, activists from the West Coast Occupy Movements, especially from Portland, Longview, and Seattle, did put in a tremendous amount of work attempting  to organize directly with rank and file Longshore workers from Local 21 Longview.  This was complicated by the gag order that the International bureaucracy forced on the local, preventing them from speaking with Occupy activists.

Activists in Decolonize/ Occupy Seattle were trying to organize with Seattle longshore workers even before the Port Shutdown was called, and did extensive outreach at the hiring hall, as well as among port truckers at the gates of the port.  Relations with truckers were very positive on D12, and truckers went on strike several months later; Decolonize/ Occupy activists are continuing to try to build solidarity with them. There are many challenges, some of which we will outline below.  However, these connections probably would not have been made if it were not for the Dec 12th port shutdown. Activists faced challenges of racial divisions between longshore workers and port truckers, as well as an exceptionally hostile reaction from a section of the Local 19 leadership which lead to a ban on longshore workers speaking with Occupy activists.   Despite all of this, there was a solid effort to build unity among Decolonize/Occupy, Longshore workers, truckers, and farmworkers (Decolonize/ Occupy Seattle activists were also building solidarity with dairy workers at the time).  The perspective we are advocating in this document is intended to build on these kinds of positive efforts.

Notably, instead of substituting their own activity for the activity of waterfront workers, Decolonize/ Occupy Seattle activists emphasized their own classwide demands as unemployed folks and as workers from various workplaces (service industries, reproductive industries like healthcare, etc.), and asked port workers to engage in two way solidarity with them.  The port shutdown was a struggle against  Wall Street on the Waterfront , especially against SSA, in which Goldman Sachs has a majority share.  It was a struggle against police brutality, against austerity budget cuts, and an immigrant rights struggle in solidarity with truckers.  It was also in solidarity with Longview longshore workers, but it was never only about that.  (link to  http://occupyseattle.org/resource/west-coast-port-shutdown).  Occupy activists set up their own picket line and barricade at the port, emphasizing it is public land that should be controlled by the entire multiracial and multigendered working class, whether unionized, nonunionized, employed, unemployed, working in unwaged housework, etc.
This extends traditions of struggle such as the Port Mobilization Resistance in the Northwest, where activists blocked military shipments in solidarity with anticolonial movements abroad.   It also extends the trajectory of struggle in Oakland, where ever since Oscar Grant was killed, activists have been calling to shut the port down against police brutality, something which came to fruition in a massive way on Nov 2nd.   In Seattle on Dec 12th, some longshore workers respected this attempt to militantly defend the working class as a whole by barricading the flow of commodities.   Many more sided with union leaders who criticized Occupy as outside agitators.  In response to those criticisms, one longshore worker in Seattle put it this way: “for the rest of the working class, you need to make a decision: do you believe the waterfront is privatizable by companies who utilize it?  Do you believe it is privitazable by non-class conscious workers who work for them?  Or is it public property that rightfully belongs to the entire working class”?

The Occupy class struggle currents balanced the struggle inside and outside the workplace, attempting to bring them together.  They recognized that the port is an important site of  workplace struggle, and attempted to build with rank and file workers in that workplace, without substituting their activity for the activity of union leaders, a few token union activists, or “surplus populations”.  At the same time, this current  argued the port is more than a workplace, it is also a public facility where the exploitation of the entire working class is mediated through the distribution of commodities.  For that reason, they blockaded it, chanting “whose ports? Everyone’s!”


VII. Negotiations: Rank-File, Union Leaders and Capital

 

Thousands of Associated News reports flooded media channels that the union as whole was against December 12th. The ILWU leadership, specifically Communications Director Craig Merrilees, went out of his way to go to meetings, do interviews, and send communications that the Occupy movement is against the union. Craig Merrilees has a history of attempting to shutdown radical labor actions. When UC Santa Cruz AFSCME 3299 workers and students had a militant strike shutting down the campus on April 14th 2005, Craig Merrilees, then AFSCME 3299 political director, unsuccessfully did his best to end the action, because, in his words, he wanted “my members to have a positive experience.” With the reproduction of history, many UCSC alumni, active in the December 12th shutdown, again challenged these right wing interventions made by the union bureaucratic leadership. https://advancethestruggle.wordpress.com/2010/02/14/reflections-on-the-most-radical-university-santa-cruz-student-worker-organizing-april-14th-2005/

When the ILWU International leadership publicly denounced the mobilizations to shutdown the ports on December 12th, the capitalist media had ready made ammunition against the Occupy movement. The ILWU leadership did way more in denouncing the Occupy movement than it has fighting lawsuits, massive fines, Coast Guard and Homeland Security intimidation on ILWU local 21. The ILWU President McEllrath was elected in 2006 with 16% of the membership vote. He called for leadership meeting of all the ILWU presidents meeting in mid January 2012. This was historically unprecedented. In this meeting, President of Local 21 Dan Coffman was severely attacked and isolated by the International. The leadership of the ILWU International said that it would not cover the millions of dollars worth of fines if it could not control the negotiations with EGT. This represents a key lesson, where the union leadership used state imposed debt as a political weapon to pacify the rank-file. President  McEllrath also violated the ILWU International Constitution (Article XIII, Section 1, Agreements, Strikes, Lockouts and Boycotts.) ILWU President local 21 Dan Coffman caved and described the meeting as being politically raped.

As the ILWU had control of negotiations in early February, many on the left hailed the Occupy movement for bringing the CEO of EGT Larry Clarke to the negotiating table. But the Occupy movement was not ready to deal with is the ILWU leadership position ordering ILWU local 21 to break contact with Occupy. The ILWU International leadership collaborated with Democratic Party Washington Governor Chris Gregoire to “organize” the “negotiations.” In the roundtable discussions with EGT, the Presidents of the different ILWU locals were present, excluding ILWU rank-file militants of local 10, 21, and 19. One president of a small Northwest port local said, “I’ve never seen such secret negotiations like this before.” ILWU leadership politically excluded the rank-file from negotiations, and EGT and the Governor of Washington demanded breaking ties with the Occupy movement. The process of political exclusion of the rank-file from negotiations is not that easy, as it’s a political right fought for in the labor movement since the formation of unions, hence the term “collective bargaining.” The right for rank-file to negotiate during contract fights is something forgotten by a new generation of radicals that over emphasize the agency of surplus populations and street protests as the new form of class struggle or understand the labor movement as getting a job as a union organizer, or doing volunteer work for a union campaign. The new generation of radicals, avoiding these twin pitfalls, should share a political principal of fighting for rank-file participation, with a rank-file analysis, in contract fights and negotiations. Giving this political terrain to the bureaucratic leadership will only lead to the string of defeats unions have been subjected to in the last 30 years of capitalism offensive. With these string of defeats, the Wisconsin EGT attacks are of a much more extreme character, attempting to Walmartize union rights. The second political maneuver, excluding Occupy from negotiations, was easy on the part of Capital and the State through the argument that it’s a third party that has no right in influencing negotiations. The Occupy movement missed an opportunity of demanding rank-file presence in negotiations with EGT as part of the December 12th shutdown message and could have raised the demand of defending the hiring hall. This could have added political weight to the claim of having a “pinpointed economic blockade” by centrally integrating the rank-file in the political process.

Political deception runs deep, “If there was a ‘secret plan’ by the union tops, no one ever saw it implemented,” said one president of a small Northwest port local. Another old-timer familiar with grain negotiations said: “We get no information or misinformation. This is worse than Peavey.” ILWU local 21 rank-file inspired the Occupy movement for their resilience and militancy against EGT, being an important ingredient for a revolutionary movement against capitalism. The ILWU leadership worked hand and hand with the capitalist media, the Democratic Party Governor of Washington and even EGT by isolating ILWU local 21 during bargaining. This demonstrates the ILWU union is composed of a treacherous leadership that worked with capital and the state and against the interest of the ILWU rank-file, with an ILWU rank-file that militantly fought capital and the state being sold out by their leadership. In addition to the power axis of accumulation, automation, and the state, is the collaboration of the union leadership to this power grid, and plays the role of politically normalizing the defeats for the unionized working class.

 

VIII. Contract Time


As the ILWU local 21 leadership was cut off from its ranks, cut off from the Occupy movement, the negotiotiatons were first controlled by the ILWU International leadership. At the critical moment of the actual signing of the contract the ILWU leadership walked out of the room, with the Washington Governor Chris Gregoire providing the unfavorable terrain of negotiations as an agent of the capitalist state, the CEO of EGT moved into an attack on local 21. A contract was signed Feb 9th 2012 by local 21 President Dan Coffman and CEO of EGT Larry Clarke that is effective from February 15, 2012 through May 1st 2017. This contract is setting a new bar to all the ILWU contracts across the West Coast, with Portland and Seattle’s contracts expiring in September 30 2012, attacking one of the most militant unions in the US. Five of the key losses in the contract are

1) Section Article II 5.05- the union losing the control of hiring hall

2) Article IX 9.01- No strikes or work stoppages of any sort

3) Article IX 9.02- Delegitimizing the variety of picket lines and conservatively narrowing the definition of acceptable picket lines

4) Article IX- 9.03- Requiring the union to behave as agent of workplace discipline to reinforce the capitalist valorization process

5) Article IX- 9.04- Framing the union and the company as a team that needs to unite in a world of competition.

5.05 Failure To Supply Necessary Individuals. In the event the Employers determines that the dispatcher fails to supply the necessary individuals from the Approved Lists, the Employer shall have the sole right, without interference from the Union, to hire and pay an individual not dispatched from the Dispatch hall and from outside of the LESB or Winch Board (as applicable), or to utilize its supervisory personal to perform the work. During such failure to supply, employees from outside the Dispatch Hall and/or supervisory personnel may be utilized on a day-to-day basis subject to the right of the Dispatch Hall to substitute on a next day basis qualified personnel.

Rank-file control over union policies and the unions control over the hiring hall, was one of the major working class gains won from the San Francisco 1934 general strike.  Five years into the depression, where unemployment was skyrocketing, the owners, with the ILA union leadership being complicit in the process, was challenged by a broad rank-file committee that Australian labor militant Harry Bridges was critical in forming. Now in 2012, the capitalist are going after the gains of the 1934 general strikes.

ARTICLE IX- INTERRUPTION OF WORK

9.01 No Strike-No Lockout. The Union and the Employees agree that there will be no strikes, sympathy strikes, work stoppages, stop work meetings not authorized by this Agreement, picket lines, slowdowns, boycotts, disturbances, or concerted failure or refusal to perform assigned work (collectively, “Work Stoppage”), and there will be no lockouts by the Company, for the duration of this Agreement or extension thereof. A Work Stoppage shall not include unintentional lack of availability of qualified employees or bona fide health and safety disputes.

9.02 Refusal to cross a legitimate and bona fide picket line, as defined in this paragraph, shall not be deemed a violation of this Agreement but the Employer may utilize supervisors, subcontractors, and employees from outside the Dispatch Hall during any such absence of employees. A legitimate and bona fide picket line is one established and maintained by a union, acting independently of ILWU, about the premises of an employer with whom it is engaged in a bona fide dispute over wages, hours or working conditions of employees, a majority of whom it represents as the collective bargaining agency. Collusive picket lines, jurisdictional picket lines, hot cargo picket lines, secondary boycott picket lines, and demonstration picket lines are not legitimate picket and bona fide picket lines within the meaning of this Agreement. Disputes between the ILWU and any other employer not signatory to this Agreement shall not interfere with Employees within or about the Facility.

Narrowing the definition of the picket-line into narrow economic struggles delegitimizes political struggles. ILWU local 10 engaged in a political strike for Oscar Grant on October 23, 2010. Delegitimizing the variety of picket-lines creates the pretext for the employer to both attack the picket-lines backed up by the state, using police forces, and pressuring the union to separate itself from rank-file initiative’s to form pickets for political struggles . This further narrows the unionized workers to build alliances to struggle against austerity, speedups, and other employer based attacks.

9.03 Union agrees to support the Employer in maintaining operations, including: promptly advising the Employer that any Work Stoppage is unauthorized; declaring publicly that such action is unauthorized, if questioned; and promptly ordering its members to return to work notwithstanding the existence of any wildcat picket line. Any employee who participates in or promotes a Work Stoppage may be disciplined up to and including discharge or removal from the Approved Lists, as applicable.

9.04 The Union recognizes that the Employer is engaged in a competitive business that to a considerable extent depends on customer satisfaction with a quality product and timely deliveries, thus Work Stoppages cause irreparable damage to the Employer.

This is called the team concept. Most union leaders in the AFL-CIO argue to the membership that they are in a “team” with the employer. As the employer competes with others, the union mobilizes its members to be loyal to the employer, so it can behave like a team in a world of competition. As profits flow from unpaid labor, employers maximize unpaid labor through the pretext of competition. Union leaders who reinforce the team concept politically align themselves with the employers attempt to maximize profits through exploiting unpaid labor. With these attacks integrated into the new contract the key defeat was losing the hiring hall. The key victory was maintaining jurisdiction.

After the contract was signed, political forces across the political spectrum announced victory. “The announcement followed a concerted struggle by longshore workers in this normally quiet corner of the Pacific Northwest, who were accompanied by mass solidarity pickets organized by the Occupy movement. This is an important victory with lessons for the entire labor movement and Occupy activists. Summed up, the lesson is this: we can fight back and win only on the basis of a class struggle approach to trade unionism,” Socialist Appeal; Longview struggle shows the way April 5, 2012. ”The emerging Local 21 victory can only inspire even bolder and more conscious efforts. The first hard-fought victories after a long string of defeats are always among the most important and longest remembered. They serve as an example to millions that a united labor movement in alliance with all its allies can win,” Socialist Action ILWU Local 21 Victory! Febraury 8th, 2012. Occupy Oakland released a press conference January 23, 2012 Titled Occupy Responds to ILWU & EGT Tentative Agreement for Longview that states, “Organizers from the Occupy Movement claim this tentative agreement as a victory for the workers, for social movements, and for the 99%.” What did the Union bueacracy say about the contract? President of the ILWU International, Robert McEllrath said, “This is a win for the ILWU, EGT and the Longview community. The ILWU has eight decades of grain export experience in the Northwest, and we look forward to the opportunity to develop a positive working relationship with EGT.” What did the representative of capital say about the contract? EGT CEO Larry Clarke said in his press release, “This is a positive development for EGT, the ILWU and the Longview community… We appreciate the efforts of Governor Gregoire and ILWU President McEllrath, who helped make this possible so our operations can expand economic benefits to the local community.” How could Capital, the Union Bureaucracy and the Left all agree it was a victory? And what did the rank-file ILWU local 21 say about the contract? ILWU Local 21 Rank and File member wrote on this contract:

No wonder it’s been difficult to get a copy of the contact.

It’s worse than the Peavey (concessionary) agreement and should never have been signed. It gives away the store or in this case the union shop. Mang’t can do longshore work until the jobs are filled. It’s sole discretion of management to discipline and fire workers immediately, with no protection on the job. Mang’t can do longshore work while men are standing by on health and safety. Outside contractors are doing longshore work NOW, doing mechanics work and clean up. After 3 “illegal work stoppages” EGT can hire outside contractors to do our work. Mang’t has already broken the contract having them work 13 1/2 hrs, i.e. 1 1/2 hrs. over a 12 hr. shift!! (italics added)

 

And if they refuse they’re fired. Even after the Peavey dispute ALL lawsuits, charges, fines, grievances, legal actions were withdrawn. In EGT conflict we’ve still got outstanding charges, including felonies, and fines. Apparently, ILWU President McEllrath walked out of negotiations in a fit, leaving Local 21 negotiators in a lurch (a setup). Read it and weep! Worse than a concessionary contract- no clerks, no control room, no good picket line language. After such a courageous struggle by the rank and file of Northwest longshore locals, a top down sellout! The membership of Local 21 has still not voted on this contract. It’s time to call a Special Longshore Caucus.#

 

These political positions all came out right after the contract was signed. Six months later, the left shifted towards a more critical view of the contract.

 

IX. Labor White, Black and Brown, Shut the Ports Down!

 

The political origins of December 12th 2011 came from the immigrant rights movement of Los Angeles. The immigrant rights movement of Los Angeles picked that day as the birthday of the Virgen of Guadalupe. At the twin port of Longbeach-Los Angeles, around 10,000 independent operating truckers, mostly Mexican and Central American immigrants, have engaged in militant shutdowns since 2004. Many have political experiences in the Central American civil wars in the 1980s. Against high gas prices, low pay, and for immigrant rights, these non-union truckers have engaged in several militant shutdowns at the port of Long Beach, and even shutting down highway 5 in 2005. On May 2, 2006, as an analysis of May first 2006, the largest protest in American history, Financial Times reported on the power LA immigrant truckers had in shutting down the flow of commodities from the port of Longbeach. Several immigrant truckers, wearing Teamster identified material, were fired by port company SSA- which is mostly owned by Goldman Sachs. From such firings, the immigrant rights movement called for a protest on December 12, 2011. Occupy Oakland caught wind of such a struggle and generalized it to the whole West Coast with EGT as its main target. The Longbeach San Pedro ILWU Longshore workers, local 13, with 15,000 members, are predominately Chicano (Mexican-American), and have shown little solidarity with the truckers. These two groups of workers are central to the functioning of the LA-Long Beachport port, one of global centers of commodity circulation. Long Beach / Los Angeles handles 40% of this country’s shipping, nearly ten times as much as the Port of Oakland. But there is a deep divide over citizenship and union status. Braking down such a division is one of the necessary tasks. Its potential unity would create a powerful immigrant-worker alliance, changing the relationship of forces in Los Angeles, where exploitation of immigrants is quiet extreme and unionized labor historically has been quiet weak. The potential Latino immigrant-Chicano worker alliance would also add a new powerful dimension against both the socially normalized exploitation of Latinos, where the racially accepted conception of “working like a Mexican” leads to the maximization of Latino unpaid labor to maximize profits.

The San Francisco ILWU local ten hall, containing mostly Black workers, with many living in Oakland, has had one of the most militant histories stemming all the way back to the 1934 general strike. ILWU local ten has had several political shutdowns, against the war in Iraq, for political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal and of recently had a shutdown for slain Black youth Oscar Grant. The political strike for Oscar Grant was perhaps the first political strike within  the period of the 2007 crisis. Port workers also include International Federation of Professional & Technical Engineers, and the Western Council of Engineers, SEIU local 1021 who have have taken cuts while profits have risen. The port of Oakland, containing 2000 independent truckers who are mostly immigrants. The truckers had a wildcat strike in the summer 2005 as gas prices skyrocketed. Due to the lack of an organized strike committee, the strike lost. Similar tensions with unionized citizen workers on the one side and immigrant non-union workers on the other exist at the port of Oakland.  David Arian, the first International President of ILWU elected from LA in 1993-1996, told Oakland port employer, APL, during a port trucker strike in Oakland, that ILWU would brake the strike if APL would give those jobs to ILWU. This jurisdictional political strategy is the opposite of class unity. Braking strikes for union advances serves a reactionary segmented section of the class, that will destroy solidarity with its relationship to the class as a whole. A class alliance of both groups of workers, Longshore and truckers, would advance class unity in the Bay Area in a serious way against one of the centers of commodity circulation. Los Angeles with Oakland-SF Longshore, along with truckers, all uniting, would be one of the most powerful advances of working class struggle in the country. As of recently, the Truckers in Los Angeles are being organized into the Teamsters and ILWU local 10 is voting to have a shutdown on May First 2012. Such developments are positive. But having large sections of Black and Latino workers politically united on classwide demands, beyond union jurisdiction based politics, could tap into the anger and urban frustration within the LA – Bay Area working class communities of color, that is riddled with racist police brutality, ICE raids and extra high unemployment. This would add a living revolutionary fire to the slogan, Labor Black and Brown, Shut the City Down! #

Seattle had a much different dynamic due to a white dominated local with a history of racist discriminatory policies. Building a classwide struggle committee on the Seattle Waterfront will require overcoming divisions within the working class especially between longshore workers and port truck drivers. This kind of cross-sector solidarity is an urgent need, given the ongoing police and management repression of the port trucker drivers and the upcoming Pacific Northwest longshore grain contract negotiations, which could try to impose the terrible Longview contract on the Seattle ILWU local and other NW locals.

In addition to the possibility of upcoming attacks around the grain contract, longshore workers in Seattle are dealing with other problems related to automation.  The Seattle longshore workforce has been reduced by automation since the early 1960s, and this reduction in numbers continues today as the employers continue to find technology that can reduce the numbers of humans involved.  Recently, SSA in Seattle’s Terminal 18  has replaced one clerk in each gang by a dispatch computer.  The ILWU did not stop this. There are problems with this new technology; it currently doesn’t do as efficient of a job as humans used to do, and production has gone down as a result.  The employers blame the ILWU, and accuse workers of doing a Luddite/ anti-technology slow down in protest.  In reality, there is no slowdown, and workers are working harder than before.  As one worker put it,  “We are pressured to step in and perform functions of thinking, calculation, and error correction that the extra  human brain in our gang use to perform for us and the computer is unable to do.  The drivers in the gang have to compensate for the computer’s errors because it cannot differentiate between a refrigerated (“reefer”) and a dry container.  Refrigerated units have to face in the right direction to plug in.  The checker used to be able to tell the rest of the gang which direction to put them in, but the computer doesn’t do this.”  So the workers have to take extra time to turn the containers around, or to shout out directions to each other to supplement the computer.  This is all extra work the bosses expect them to take up.

The port truckers are majority immigrant workers of color, many of them East African.  They are legally considered “independent contractors” which means that, like farmworkers and domestic workers, they are not covered by the National Labor Relations Act’s protections for certain type of union activity.  They face severe racial discrimination on the job, including harassment from management and unfortunately also from some longshore workers.  They are not allowed to use the same restrooms as the longshore workers in the port.  They are also regularly harassed by the police for having overloaded trucks, even though they have no means of weighing their trucks to make sure they are not overloaded when the containers are placed on their chassis.  The containers are not owned by them, and they should not be held accountable for them being overweight.  Finally, their pay is so low that many of the have to work long hours, and some of them have to sleep in their trucks because they can’t afford housing.

As our friends in the Malcolm X Grassroots Project point out, the exclusion of port truckers, domestic workers and farm workers from the NLRA is a form of apartheid labor. Truckers may share the same workplace as longshore workers on the waterfront, but do not have equal rights to organize.

In early February, the  Seattle Port Truckers Association (SPTA) (seattleporttruckers.org), an independent truckers organization, led a strike on the waterfront. They struck for better working conditions and the right to organize. They worked in coalition with the teamsters to introduce two bills into Washington State’s 2012 legislative session. The first proposed legislation that would hold companies responsible for the fines the truckers received from law enforcement. Truckers argued these tickets should be paid by the companies that own unsafe intermodal chassis rather than the drivers who can only work as directed. The second proposed legislation would re-classify port drayage drivers in Tacoma and Seattle from the legal category of “independent contractors” to that of “employees”, giving them the right to organize under labor law.

The speed at which these two bills were introduced into the legislature could not be separated from the two week port drivers strike in Seattle, following the recent December 12th shut down of many West Coast ports by the Occupy movement. This had undoubtedly created a unique political climate of urgency.

In about 2 weeks, the strike ended. Even though the employee classification bill had passed the state house, it did not go much further. It appears that the strike ended primarily because workers were in such bad shape financially that they decided to go back to work. With their wages so low already, missing work meant going hungry for many of them.  In the future, the Trucker Association could develop into a formidible organization capable of shutting down the port for much longer if it had a significant strike fund.   The association has its own acount, experienced treasurers, and a paypal account where they can receive donations (link to paypal account). http://seattleporttruckers.org/donate/

Decolonize/ Occupy Seattle activists made contact with members of the Port Truckers Association during mass meetings in West Seattle leading up to the Dec. 12th  Port Shutdown. Occupy activists also passed out flyer at the port and talked with  individual drivers leading up to the shutdown; many were very supportive.  Some Decolonize/Occupy activists did fundraising and participated in strike support demonstrations during the strike. Afterwards they organized a copwatch , attempting to deter police from harassing truckers leaving the port terminals.

The following is a summary of accounts by some reliable sources who wish to remain anonymous. We were told that at the Jan meeting of the Puget Sound District Council (PSDC) of the ILWU, the Teamsters’ lobbyist spoke as a guest asking for ILWU support for both bills that the truckers were fighting for.  The District Council is made up of delegates from every ILWU local in the Puget Sound region.  This body voted not to support the safe chassis bill.  Delegates reported this back to their respective locals that approved this decision with little debate.  There was near unanimous refusal to support the bill,  with the notable exception of Howard McCay, one of the 3 delegates from Local 19 who said his personal view was to support both bills.

As for the reclassification bill, there is ambiguity and confusion about what the ILWU’s position is.  According to local 52, the District Council voted to support it.  However, in reporting back to the Local 19 February stop work meeting, Local 19 delegates delivered conflicting reports to members.  Dan McKisson reported that the PSDC did not support either bill, while Howard McCay reported that after some debate they had voted to support the truckers’ employee reclassification.  The reason Dan McKisson claimed ILWU didn’t support either bill is because he said that work done by port truck drivers who transport intermodal containers between marine terminals and inland intermodal railyards of BNSF and UP railroads is rightfully Longshore jurisdiction under the ILWU contracts and should be done by longshore workers instead of current drivers.   This position was reiterated at Feb, March, and April stop work meetings by another member Chris Peeler, when he delivered his report on behalf of Local 19’s labor relations committee.  However, the Pacific Coast Longshore contract document, available on the PMA website, does not support this claim (http://www.pmanet.org/pubs/laborAgreements/2008-2014%20PCLCD.pdf).

In addition, there had been no previous attempts to organize the truckers into the ILWU in recent years.  It was always Harry Bridges position that these jobs are under the Teamsters’ jurisdiction, and since these jobs ceased to be union jobs in the late 80s, the ILWU has supported teamster efforts to organize truckers.  The current stances of local 19 leaders seems to contradict this stance.  It leaves us wondering whether there is jurisidictional tensions going on between the Teamsters and the ILWU.  If so, activists should not take sides in these tensions and instead should organize toward the strongest possible unity of longshore workers, truck drivers, and the rest of the working class against the maritime capitalists.

According to one source, “Since I’ve been in the industry, the day to day attitudes of longshore workers toward the drivers range from indifference to blatant chauvinism.  Anyone who looks at the demographic composition of these two groups can observe this chauvinism is taking place across racial lines.”  The port truckers are majority East African, and the vast majority of Local 19 is white.

Most of the non-white longshore workers entered the industry between 1981 and 2002. This was when entrance into the industry was regulated by the WA state unemployment office as a result of a settlement that ended a 1981 anti- discrimination lawsuit.  In 2002, the WA state unemployment office facilities were privatized and operations were taken over by a company called Worksource.  Since 2003, the hiring of new casuals  in the port of Seattle has been conducted by the employers and the union through the joint labor relations committee without any form of public sector oversight.   As the same source put it, ” the percentage of nonwhite workers has declined dramatically, as anyone who is not colorblind can notice with a quick visual observation.” In fact, this biased form of hiring has resulted in a public campaign in Seattle.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=byv2uhOdHh8

In response to this trend and complaints that grievances filed by Black longshore workers were allegedly not being pursued by the union with the seriousness of similar grievances filed by white longshore workers, a new chapter of the African American Longshore Coalition (which has existed since the early 90s) was organized in Seattle in 2005.  The  AALC delivered a report about some of these issues to the Black-majority Bay Area Longshore local 10,  after which Local 10 made a decision to temporarily withhold some of its pro rata dues money from the International on the eve of the 2006 ILWU convention, in hopes that at least some of these issues would be resolved as a result.  However, as one longshore worker put it, “This action by Local 10 was short lived whereas retaliation against  the Seattle AALC and those who supported its’ report is still ongoing.”

This is the social context for Black Orchid Collective’s piece “Longview, Occupy, and Beyond: The Rank and File and the 89% Unite”.  That peice called for solidarity among longshore rank and file, truckers, and the nonunionized working class, including unemployed folks, folks who work at home doing housework, prisoners, etc.  It spoke about union workers being more privileged than nonunion workers, and how unity among rank and file  union members and the rest  of the working class can only be built by overcoming these divisions.  Many have criticized this piece, saying that the union/nonunion distinction is not necessarily a deep division within the working class based on differences in material privilege.  Some have pointed out that many union workers are immigrants, women, and people of color who face severe oppression on the job, and many nonunion workers are privileged over other nonunion workers – in other words, the 89% of nonunionzed workers do not automatically act in solidarity with each other.  Of course all of these points are true, and BOC members have since clarified and acknoweldged this here: http://blackorchidcollective.wordpress.com/2012/03/20/dramatic-intro-the-crisis-of-the-left-whats-really-going-in-the-iso-boc-debate/ The piece was speaking to specific dynamics in Seattle during the port shutdown, Longview solidarity organizing, and the trucker’s strike.

In light of the Longview contract that erodes at the local’s control of their hiring hall, it seems eminent that other ILWU hiring halls will face similar attacks, especially as the grain contract expires later this year. One is left wondering several things. On the one hand, the maritime corporations might try to force the oppressive aspects of the Longview EGT contract, including its undermining of the hiring hall, onto the rest of the Pacific Northwest grain terminal workers.   If they do this, then there is the possibility that longshore workers in Seattle might begin to fight back militantly the way workers in Longview did.  Activists from other sections of the working class should support this.  However, they have to let it be known to the longshore workers that they can’t expect solidarity from workers of color unless they reciprocate this solidarity and fight racism on the waterfront.

Uncritical celebration of the hiring hall as the epitome of workers’ control and industrial democracy only serves to marginalize the protests of Black workers against discrimination on the Seattle waterfront.   Any activists who want to build toward working class unity should support efforts of Black longshoremen and the largely East African truckers who are both fighting racism on the job. They should try to convince white longshoremen that it is ultimately in their interest to confront this racism as well.   If they fully understand the new round of attacks that could come with further automation of the ports, they will see that relying on their white coworkers alone will not keep them safe from these attacks, and they will need the support of their Black and East African coworkers, and the communities they are a part of in the broad Seattle metro area and beyond.  If they want that support, they will have to fight against racism among their own coworkers, for equal hiring practices, and against all forms of institutionalized white power on the waterfront. If the bosses regain control of hiring/firing , this would probably worsen the racist practices within the industry and create more racial divide and conquer like what existed under the old shape up system before 1934 strike. For these reasons, we should oppose the bosses’ attacks.  However, our unity must be premised on the condition that the hiring hall become an anti-racist institution and that longshore workers challenge their own chauvinistic attitudes toward the immigrant port truckers.

It is also important to note that white longshore workers are not necessarily the only ones who have chauvinism toward the truckers.  There may also be non-white workers who look down on or harass truckers.  They also need to be challenged to see that their own struggles will not succeed unless they embrace the truckers as equals.

Both the truckers’ struggle and the Longview longshore struggle inspired people from various sections of the working class to fight against the maritime bosses and the “Wall Street on the Waterfront” financial interests that back them.  This was a matter of solidarity – and the truckers struggle in particular inspired immigrant workers and youth from various communities to participate in the Dec. 12th port shutdown.  This struggle over the long term has the potential to build a powerful, multi-racial movement, as long as workers on the waterfront and throughout the city put an emphasis on challenging the racial hierarchies that currently divide the Seattle waterfront workforce.

X. The December 12th, 2011 experience

December 12th was first proposed at the Occupy Oakland GA (General Assembly) on November 18th, 2011. By November 27, 2011, the Occupy movement in every major West Coast port city: Occupy LA, Occupy San Diego, Occupy Portland, Occupy Tacoma, Occupy Seattle joined Occupy Oakland in calling for and organizing a coordinated West Coast Port Blockade. Such a short time period created a situation for mobilizing not organizing. These dynamics led to an energetic Occupy movement meeting a sparse rank-file movement. Occupy could have raised a key demand of defending the hiring hall to cement an  Occup – rank-file alliance.  Although the resulting contract was not a direct responsibility of Occupy’s strategy, some important questions must be asked in order for us to reflect on the contradictions at play. Was it adventurist of Occupy Oakland to call this action without adequate consultation with the Local? Why didn’t more workers participate in the action given that there was outreach? With that said and in the light of the contract, was the December 12th port shutdowns a waste? The political form of a Westcoast shutdown was quiet powerful. The content of Longshore class struggle was missing. This dress rehearsal of struggle teaches the Occupy movement many lessons of its own strengths and weaknesses. Remembering the Occupy statement of December 12th, “While the union leaders, stuck in their old ways of thinking and obeying the rules of the 1 percent, are unable to support the activity of large numbers of non-unionized workers, we, as the Occupy movement, have shown that we carry none of that legalistic baggage. We are the new phase of the workers’ movement” (Italics added). We can clearly see this logic is wrong. But if the Westcoast Longshore workers start organizing on a rank-file basis against the coming EGT attacks, which Longview is a pilot for, and a model contract to reproduce, it will need back up. This is where a new phase of the workers movement, led by rank-file Longshore who politically rupture from “the legalistic baggage of unionism,” putting forth a vision of a classwide offensive, can work with the Occupy movement and surplus populations in an effective way against capitalist attacks. The effect could be a combined internal strike, with the external barricade, working as a political unit in battle against capital and the state.

XI. Historical Ruptures and Classwide Organizing

     Much of trade union organization is primarily defensive. This is the origin, developed under the force of circumstances: the employer acts and the union reacts. In the main, unions are geared to remedy past greviences and to take care of present problems. They rarely prepare to meet the future-

       Herb Mills,

                            – ILWU Local 10 writer#.


  The true realm of freedom, the development of human powers as an end in itself, begins beyond it, though it can only flourish with this realm of necessity as its it, though it can only flourish with this realm of necessity as its basis. The reduction of the working day is the basic prerequisite.
Karl Marx,
-Third Volume of Capital#

The December 12, 2011 was a convergence of surplus population insurgency, social movement unionism and rupturing historical moment of ascending struggle. Those that pushed for a de-workplace working class to be a moving picket to make an economic blockade as a strategy were doing so in the spirit of developing a class offensive. Bay of Rage article argues, “Though they employ the tactics of the historical workers’ movement at its most radical, the content of the Longview struggle is quite different: they are not fighting for any expansions of pay or benefits, or attempting to unionize new workplaces, but merely to preserve their union’s jurisdictional rights. It is a defensive struggle, in the same way that the Madison, Wisconsin capitol occupation was a defensive struggle – a fight undertaken to preserve the dubious legally-enshrined rights to collectively bargain.”This is true. What Bay of rage is putting on the table is the question of by what means do we go on an offensive against capital? The social movement unionist who wanted to unite and fight against the EGT, brought the issue of ILWU jurisdictional struggle to the limelight with progressive union circles. As a combined force, these two tendencies, expressed in the Occupy movement, did give political confidence to longshore workers. President of ILWU local 21 said at a rally in Oakland on November 19th, “On behalf of Local 21, we want to thank the Occupy movement for shedding light on the practices of EGT and for the inspiration of our members”. But the movement was not able to strike at the heart of the EGT offensive.
As Harry Bridges, longshore militants who were part of the Communist party, and longshore militants were part of the IWW, formed the Albion Hall group, publishing the Waterfront worker for developing longshore class struggle, this formation was the seed to the 1934 SF westcoast wide general strike. With a base amonsgt casual longshore, reaching out to sailors, unemployed, and black workers through the churches, the character of the Albion Hall group was a classwide committee. They were able to unify the class, demanding the assurance and control of work, leading an offensive against the maritime capitalist. The central weakness of December 12th, was almost a complete lack of immigrant trucker participation in the struggle. The support by ILWU members was very small, unable to galvanize a majority of the rank-file. The capitalist politicians did their best o exploit such weakness. Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said, “The people who are planning to stay at the port—do they have families who have trucks that because of the shutdown in the economy may lose those trucks? A day’s pay—$600, $700—could be the difference as to whether they can keep that truck or not.”# On July 29, 2012, ILWU local 21 Mike Fuqua stated that if Harry Bridges was alive, he would be for organizing the truckers and “standing by our fellow workers.”# The class composition of the Occupy movement, was riddled of working class people, some in the streets, others with union jobs. But the movement did not have mass roots amongst longshore rank-file nor with the truckers. A classwide committee composed of longshore as a necesary base, truckers as a central component of work on the ports, and occupy like forces on the outside, can balance out the disequilibrium within the movement.# The capitalist did their best to exploit Occupy’s limited connection with longshore and really exploited the condition of the truckers. Non union truckers, who have had militant strikes at the Los Angeles, Oakland and Seattle ports, have had tension with ILWU. On the other side of the longshore work, many ships are called “runaway flags” who were linked to places like the Caymen islands to avoid paying taxes. Non union workers from Indonesia and Phillipinnes work on such ships. Considering the shipping and trucking work, there is also the formation of the Longview terminal itself some of it being done by immigrant nonunion workers. The three components of work, central to longshore, are done by non union immigrant workers. Immigrant workers, being the most oppressed and exploited of the workforce, also was in the most peripheral positions of the Occupy struggle. Occupy’s both strength and weakness is its capacity to mobilize but not organize. With its strength to mobilize, Occupy was able to capture historical moments of rupture and push aside all conservative barriers. Occupy, coupled with longshore being able to shutdown the ports, along with with immigrant workers who complete this labor process, need to be unified into a revolutionary unit against capital. In this sense, we have yet to see a real classwide offensive, led by workers at the port, that can challenge the heart of the capitalist valorization process.
If were to take  quick look at past revolutionary struggle, 1877, 1886, and 1934, each of these high points of workers struggle, meant the brake down of divisions within the working class. The workers party in Toledo Ohio organized the unemployed and the auto factories into a unified force, creating a general strike. Geography, industry, race and gender, as dynamics that create divisions and tensions within the working class evaporate within ascending struggle. Occupy Oakland experienced this dynamic from September to November 2011. With Occupy radicalizing thousands of people into serious anti-capitalist activists, its also important to implant a perspective that connects the activism of “anti-capitalism” with a material strategy to  lay the ground work for its real overthrow. Intervening in historical ruptures coupled with longterm working class organizing is a unified equilibrium has yet to be figured out by the revolutionary left. Chris Carlsson in The Progress Club reflects on Longshore struggle outlinging the need for a new type of work resistance: “A new opposition, especially one that grasps the powerful levers available at work, remains to be defined. Among the fragments of our daily lives we must discover a language that reinforces our shared experiences and discoveries rather than emphasizing their identity-based differences. An inspired revolt based on a certainty that life can be much better than this is buried beneath the surface of our atomized existence.” (Italics added) Accomplishing such tasks is something still to be done.
Most of the unionist left call for trade-union caucus. But such caucuses don’t have the same revolutionary fire that gave birth to the ILWU.  Most of the time there is a push for “house cleaning” within unions as a apposed to setting up a revolutionary offensive.# A classwide committee, aimed at a revolutionary offensive against capital, could develop its own program, it’s own demands, and it’s own strategies to begin such a revolutionary offensive.  Of course, such a program would have to be generated by waterfront workers, in communication with people from various working class communities.  Here is a provisional statement of what a classwide comittee could fight for, and a sense of the possibilities of this kind of struggle: These programmatic principles would be a framework but not a strategy for forming classwide committees. Here is a proposed 10 point program:

1) Politics; ruptures and base building: Synthesizing social ruptures with longterm organizing. Politicizing the port workplace with unfolding social movements and relating unfolding social movements to workplace port struggles. Acknowledging rupture (whether that is an inflammatory union contract or a social upheaval) and advancing the organizing potential of that moment by engaging people from sectors of the working class other than the most immediately affected or involved in the ‘rupture’.

 

2)  Classwide committees: Developing committees of all port workers, Longshore, Truckers, seamen, Clerks to launch classwide struggles at the port eliminating jurisdictional divisions reinforced by the union officialdom and surpassing the limited power of caucuses within one union that cannot by definition organize the whole class.

 

3) Space: Breaking down the geographical divisions between the conservative Los Angeles ILWU local 13, and the northwest locals. Restablish links with longshore around the world, modeling after ILWU’s 1946 action. Uniting Asian Longshore, Latin American Longshore (especially at  the Panama canal) with East Coast ILA and West Coast ILWU.

 

4) Generalize 1934 to all port workers: Demanding all ports workers, truckers, longshore, seamen, and clerks, truckers achieve what the Longshore have,  30 hours work for 40 hours pay. Make the Port bosses take the losses. Immigrant truckers and non union sailors are subject to extreme exploitation. Developing a movement that erases the differences between all the different port workers. #

 

5) Democratic Party: For ILWU to break with the Democratic party, like Washington Governor Gregoire who serve the interest of EGT and capitalist alike, being instrumental in eliminating the Longview hiring hall.

 

6) Taft Hartley, Law and the Hiring hall:  ILWU rank-file to develop a rank-file strategy that is not poisoned by legalistic logic and naturalizing Taft Hartley. All strikes that win have to break the law, such as the 1948 strike to defend the hiring hall against federal orders. The ILWU officialdom naturalize laws narrowing what is possible into conservative channels such as the courts.

 

7) Automation: The intensity of work has dramatically increased in time. Sharing profits using the 1961 MM contract model leads to eliminating supply of work and rank-file control. Fighting the existence of automation is a dead end. For a workers control of containerization: its formation, levels of productivity, and to apply the strength of such machinery to advance the class struggle as a whole, similar to Brukman and Zanon occupied factories in Argentina.

 

9) Capital and ILWU rank-file: Breaking the team concept where the union officialdom argue increase in profits of the company means good jobs for the port workers, obscuring the dynamic of exploitation.

10) Organize! Organize the unorganized,  following the spirit of the Albion Hall Group in 1934. To politically inspire, and materially support the rest of working class, union and non union, based on both fixed and fluid workplaces, to form classwide committees and begin a movement for a working class offensive against capital.


XII. Our Future

 

The Northwest grainhandler’s contract will expire September 30, 2012. The ILWU convention in San Diego hardly discussed this matter. The employers asked for a one year contract to follow EGT’s lead. Now that EGT has eliminated for the first time the historical gain of the hiring hall, employers will fight to eliminate this in the Northwest. What comes out of that struggle will shape the master westcoast contract agreement in 2014. The U.S. Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000, Taft-Hartely in 2002, Wisconsin defeat of 2011, 2009-2011 construction of Longview terminal, put capital into motion to destroy the ILWU. ILWU gives political leverage to the working class by engaging in political shutdowns for the state murder of Oscar Grant, against the war in Iraq including several other examples. The elimination of the union to be able to do this, will no doubt demoralize the working class, making future struggles more difficult. Yet the capacity to fight capital will not rest on the structure of union.  The political organization of port workers, coupled with activists with such a perspective, are possible to form within this historical moment. Revolutionaries aspiring to form such committees cannot do so by protest chasing, or naturalizing leftist gossip. Its only through a serious longterm perspective, sensitive to incorporating immediate ruptures within struggle, that the short and longterm dynamic of struggle can unify within the workers movement. The ports, as a fix workplace, cannot be transfered elsewhere. A spatial analysis of its division of labor is needed to form such committees, to know where and how ports shutdown succesfully. The elimination of the hiring hall will put the labor movement in a position before 1934, losing one of its most notable gains for the working class. The next two years, 2012-2014 will be a key turning point of struggle. A new working class revolutionary offensive can ascend reproducing the spirit of 1934 within today’s conditions, or capital will continue to destroy the union, the hiring hall and walmartize the ports. Port workers and activists, armed with a political perspective for struggle, and be willing to carry out the necessary work, will be a decisive factor in what the outcome is of such struggles.

1 P. 41. Bruce Nelson Workers on the Waterfront.
2     Ibid.
3 Ibid
4 p. 98 Nelson Perry Workers on the Waterfront
5 Ibid
6 The San Francisco Waterfront: The Social Consequences of Industrial Modernization by Herb Mills; 1978.
7 Proceedings of the Eighth Biennial Convention, 1949.
8 The San Franscisco Waterfront: excerpts from Men and Machines P.29 by Herb Mills; 2006.
9 The San Franscisco Waterfront: excerpts from Men and Machines P.34 by Herb Mills; 2006.
10 The Progress Club by Chris Carlsson
11 The Progress Club by Chris Carlsson
12 p.706 Notebook 7 of the Grundrisse.
13We are not ignoring what EGT – Bunge has done. Occupy the EGT rightly points out, “In 2006, UFCW Local 540 workers at an oil packaging plant in Fort Worth, Texas were majorly replaced with non-union workers. In 2007, Bulgarian workers affiliated with the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria set up daily strikes, picket lines, and plant blockades in response to Bunge’s announcement of laying off 80% of the workers. In March 2011, SOMU (an Argentinian shipping workers union) blockaded two soy crushing plants and export terminals for three days in Rosiario, Argentina, targeting terminals run by Bunge who had hired a third party company that utilized non-union workers. Aside from other existing conflicts between Bunge and union workers worldwide, the Black Workers Organizing Project in 1998 marched and rallied against Bunge for racist employment practices after two black workers were fired after being assaulted by white co-workers in Tennessee.”
Steve Stallon in his article From Camps to Ports states that, “Bunge Ltd. is a multi-national company that has busted unions from Texas to Argentina and is also deeply involved with corporate takeover of food systems, displacing local agriculture with soybean monoculture.  EGT is trying to break the labor standards and jurisdiction of the ILWU by bringing in scabs to load their grain ships at the Port of Longview.”
14 The Bay of Rage miluex has done incredible work in Occupy Oakland. The infrastructural and political work they have done for Occupy Oakland far surpassed any Trotskyist group. Without their intervention, Occupy Oakland would not have the same radical edge. Much credit to their work is worth mentioning. The disagreement is a comradely political one and not meant to be hostile in any way. BLOCKADING THE PORT IS ONLY THE FIRST OF MANY LAST RESORTS December 7th, 2011.

15 Clarence Thomas played a central role in organizing ILWU local 10 in shutting down October 23rd 2010 for Oscar Grant. His muddled union formulations should not represent the positive role hes played as far connecting labor struggles with racial struggles. Longshore workers name Occupy Movement as crucial in settlement with EGT
Submitted by admin on Sun, 02/12/2012 February 11, 2012

16 The solidarity we need for Longview January 19th, 2012. The ISO tried to back off such a statement with  ILWU officials shouldn’t get a pass by Dana Blanchard mentioning how the ILWU leadership is not really mobilizing for Longview. But the first article demonstrates the political practice of the ISO while the second article is an attempted response to the mountain of criticism the ISO was subjected to within the Occupy movement for writing the first article. Since, the ISO has not put out a position on the EGT ILWU contract, only an interview with President of ILWU Local 21 Dan Coffman.
17 ILWU Pres. McEllrath: ‘Prepare to take action when EGT vessel arrives,’ January 3, 2012.

18 This quote was taken from Indymedia. So it cannot be verified that this is a bonafied position of an ILWU Local 21 rank-file worker.
19 We give credit to an organization in Oakland that champions this slogan at all the key protest in the Bay Area for coining this term. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FI_hDHxwk-0&feature=related
20   The San Franscisco Waterfront: excerpts from Men and Machines P.30 by Herb Mills; 2006.
21 p. 959. Chapter 48 The Trinity Formula  This Chapter is the first rupture with the wage-labor and capital binary and introduces groundrent as a central category that is equal to both wage-labor and capital, forming a triangular relationship. Such three categories emerge as a unified content, becoming the new beginning point of analysing the reproduction of capitalism.
22  Occupy Oakland: The Port Shutdown and Beyond- All Eyes on Longview by Jack Gerson. Insurgent Notes January 2, 2012
23 Lessons From the ILWU Battle against EGT in Longview and the Struggle Ahead, Forum in SF on July 29, 2012

24 See chapter 7 of Loren Goldner’s Thesis for Discussion  and And the Immigrant Proletariat is Organically Activating Itself…What Should We Do? by El Chaco

25 This was a term used by some of the Longview Longshore at the SF forum Lessons of Longview
26 Many Longshore make 100,000 dollars a year. Most other workers at the port dont. Either Longshore will get pushed down, or portworkers from below could push for working class unity of conditions.

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6 responses to “Occupy, ILWU, EGT and the Coming Class Battles

  1. Pingback: The Chicago Teachers’ Strike and Beyond: deepening struggles in the schools | Black Orchid Collective

  2. Pingback: The Chicago Teachers’ Strike and Beyond: Deepening Struggles in the schools

  3. awesome piece! really appreciate the analysis of the different forces that came together for the port shutdown and the flaws within the respective forces logic that led to an analysis that created a similarly flawed strategy. also seriously appreciate the history of the ILWU and the info on the 1934 wins. the solutions offered for a new type of working class, unemployed, activist solidarity is legit and offers agency beyond that of some of the union bureaucracies that are not accountable to their rank and file, whether by circumstance (AFL-CIO) or pressure and lack of support. i wonder how local 21 is responding to these attacks in the here and now. i would also love to have an on-going discussion on the place of proxy strikes (if they have one) in 21st century working class solidarity. what is the purpose of a strike that is consented to by the workers, but not carried out by them? how does this play out and fit into a larger strategy of mass mobilization and the marriage of political struggles and economic fights? still thinking of and reflecting on this piece and i’m sure i’ll have more questions later. looking forward to deep, fresh analyses like these. solidarity from the east coast!

  4. Pingback: Struggles on the Waterfront | Black Orchid Collective

  5. Pingback: All eyes on Vancouver, Washington. The ILWU Struggle Continues. | Advance the Struggle

  6. Pingback: Solidarity Summer School in Chicago July 24-26 |

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