ILWU Local Ten is shutting down the port on October 23rd, calling for justice for Oscar Grant, with a rally taking place at noon on 14th Broadway. This is significant! The array of organizing that took place — media outreach, thousands of flyers handed out in the streets,
several union endorsements, several community and political organizational endorsements — has now developed a critical momentum for the Oscar Grant movement that was not present on July 8th 2010, January 7th or 14th of 2009. Those rebellions were expressions of raw anger from Oakland youth and young Bay Area working class people of all races. Since then, there’s been a labor-centered development of struggle, where ILWU local ten has publicly stated over and over that their means to fight against injustice will be to shut down the port.
In 1912 two IWW organizers, Joseph Ettor and Arturo Giovanniti, were framed for murder. Witnesses saw the murder of the striker committed by the police. But the 30,000 worker strike in Lawrence Massachusets, often referred to as the Bread and Roses strike, was led by Wobblies Ettor and Giovanniti and needed to be stopped by the state. The first phase of the strike won wage increases. The workers went back to work, but then restruck later in 1912, with around 20,000 participating, as a political strike to free Ettor and Giovanniti, as they were politically framed for a murder they did not commit. Philip Foner, the American Communist Party historian, claims this was the first political strike of such kind in American labor history.
It should be seriously noted when the labor movement shuts down part of the industry of commerce as a political means of defending itself as a class against racist state oppression. The ILWU has pushed the theoritical concept “an injury to one is an injury to all,” in practice. If this can develop as a trend throughout the country, then new formations opposed to state oppression and based in labor can rise, giving working people in ghettos and barrios through out the country a method for fighting back against police brutality.
Arturo Giovanniti, an Italian immigrant IWW organizer, was considered one of the best poets of the movement. In 1914, he wrote “The Walker,” that carries within its description of incarceration coded messages of liberation:
I hear footsteps over my head all night.
They come and they go. Again they come and they go all night.
They come one eternity in four paces and they go one eternity in
four paces, and between the coming and the going there is
silence and the Night and the Infinite.
For infinite are the nine feet of a prison cell, endless is the march
of him who walks between the yellow brick wall and the red
iron gate, thinking things that cannot be chained and cannot
be locked, but that wander far away in the sunlit world, each
in a wild pilgrimage after a destined goal.