San Francisco wharfies’ strike action against far-right

ILWU Local 10 taking part in protest against police killings of black Americans.

In New Zealand, industrial law supported by National and Labour alike bans political strikes.  Both parties are aware of the criplling effect this has on working class politics.  Without engaging in political strikes, NZ workers simply can’t press their interests as members of a global class.  And without acting as part of the global working class, workers here can’t develop a genuinely radical consciousness.

In the past, unions here did engage in political strikes.  For instance, at the height of the anti-Vietnam War movement in the early 1970s, the seafarers would take industrial action against the imperialist intervention in Vietnam on the same day that national protests against the war would take place.

In many other countries, political strikes are an important feature of working class politics and industrial action.  Below is an example from a few days ago in the United States. 

Members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 10 in San Francisco have passed a motion to stop work and march on the site of a white nationalist gathering later this week.

The rally has been organised by the far-right Patriot Prayer group, whose leader Joey Gibson has a history of organising rallies attended by white nationalists and violent racists such as Jeremy Christian, the man who stabbed two men to death on a Portland MAX train as they intervened to stop him racially abusing and threatening two teenage girls.

Gibson has made pains to distance himself from more explicit neo-nazis in the fallout following the Charlottesville protests, where a white nationalist drove his car into a group of anti-racist demonstrators.

However, Gibson’s sincerity has been questioned particularly has it has come to light that the Oath Keepers, a heavily-armed far-right militia composed largely of ex-military and ex-law enforcement personnel, will be providing security for the event.

To combat this, a rank-and-file union meeting of ILWU Local 10 has resolved to stop work on Saturday 26th August, the day of the rally, and march to Crissy Fields, where the rally is due to take place.

In a statement, the ILWU Local 10 declares that:

far from a matter of “free speech”, the racist and fascist provocations are a deadly menace as shown in Portland on May 26 when a Nazi murdered two men and almost killed a third for defending two young African American women he was menacing; and our sisters and brothers in the Portland labor movement answered racist terror with the power of workers solidarity, mobilizing members of 14 unions against the fascist/racist rally there on June 4.

The statement goes on to cite ILWU Local 10’s “long and proud history of standing up against racism, fascism and bigotry and using our union power to do so”, citing their May Day 2015 shut down of Bay Area ports and march to Oscar Grant Plaza against racist police violence.

Indeed, ILWU Local 10, West Coast longshore workers in general, have a long history of using strikes to push political demands.

In 1939, two years before the attack on Pearl Harbor, West Coast longshore workers boycotted ships exporting scrap metal to Imperial Japan to build armaments for their invasion of China with workers picketing the ships along the waterfront up and down the coast.

In 1984, Local 10 boycotted the South African ship Nedlloyd Kimberley for 11 days as a protest against apartheid and in solidarity with the struggles of black workers in South Africa.

On January 20th 2017, the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration, management requested that Local 10 dispatch 354 longshore workers, but only 35 showed up, again resulting in an almost total shutdown of the port in a de facto strike against Trump.

Most recently, on May 25th 2017, 100 longshore workers in ILWU at the Port of Oakland, 60% of whom are African American, walked off the job for half a day after finding a noose inside a dockside truck, as well as seeing the ‘n-word’ scrawled on port equipment inside the customs-secured area of an intermodal container terminal.

This most recent motion is seen by many as a continuation of ILWU Local 10’s tradition of using their industrial might in the service of progressive movements.

The above is reblogged from the libcom site, here, where it appeared on August 21.   Far-right leader Joey Gibson subsequently called off the group’s rally.

One comment

  1. Margaret Thatcher’s Conservatives broke the unions in the UK – and David Lange’s “Labour” government did it in New Zealand. When will the poor dupes who keep voting Labour figure it out?

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