Several hundred defenders and members of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10 in Oakland took over the plaza at Pacific Maritime Association headquarters here on April 25 to demand that the employers’ group drop its lawsuit against the union. The suit was in retaliation for the dockworkers’ solidarity action on April 4 in defense of Wisconsin public workers.
The militant lunchtime rally praised the voluntary rank-and-file action by Local 10 members on April 4. The action resulted in no ships being loaded or unloaded for 24 hours in the San Francisco and Oakland ports.
“This was Wisconsin on the docks,” said ILWU member Clarence Thomas. He pointed out that the rank and file were answering the AFL-CIO’s call for “No Business as Usual” during the April 4 nationwide day of action to defend besieged public workers in Wisconsin and 15 other states — who are threatened with losing their pensions, union work rules, collective bargaining rights and social services.
“This was a courageous act of conscience on the part of these dock workers — whose work, by the way, is critical to the functioning of the global economy. Remember that Oakland is the fourth-busiest container port in the country,” said Thomas.
The mass protest at PMA was seen as a “shot across the bow” launching a national defense campaign, supported by the San Francisco Labor Council, to defend and assert the right of ILWU members and all workers to take job actions or withhold their labor in solidarity with the struggles of other workers.
Jack Heyman, another Local 10 dock worker, said the 1934 West Coast Maritime Strike led by Harry Bridges and the San Francisco General Strike that followed it “are what made San Francisco a union town. Now we’re in another crisis of capitalism. This time the government workers are in the forefront of the struggle.
“It’s a class struggle, and we’re facing bipartisan attacks,” continued Heyman. “The difference between the two parties is that the Republicans want to take away collective bargaining and the Democrats want to keep collective bargaining as long as we accept unacceptable concessions. In addition to Wisconsin’s Republican Gov. Walker, we’ve got Democrat Gov. Jerry Brown in California. They both want to sock it to us.”
Trent Willis, Local 10 dockworker and former president, said the April 4 actions took place on the anniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. He told how Dr. King was made an honorary member of Local 10 and addressed the membership in September 1967 while in San Francisco organizing for a Poor People’s March on Washington to demand economic and social rights for unemployed workers and the poor.
“We need to recreate what Brother Martin was trying to do in those years,” said Willis. “Today the employer class is coming after everybody. That means we need another Million Worker March, another Poor People’s campaign. We need a general strike.” Continue reading