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California | Labor & Workers

Dock workers shut down ports in solidarity with Wisconsin struggle
by Dave Welsh
Wednesday Apr 6th, 2011 11:50 AM
The power of workers to bring production to a halt was on dramatic display April 4th, when longshore workers of ILWU Local 10 shut down the ports of Oakland and San Francisco for 24 hours, in solidarity with the heroic struggles in Wisconsin. The big container port of Oakland was deader than a doornail Monday at 6:00 a.m. I saw a long snake-line of trucks bearing shipping containers idled on the roadway. The shipping cranes were all “standing at attention” – i.e., not working any containers. The dock workers stayed away, and no cargo was worked on any shift Monday in Oakland or San Francisco.
“This was a voluntary rank and file action – an organized act of resistance,” said Clarence Thomas, Lo.10 exec board member.
No cargo worked April 4th in solidarity with heroic Wisconsin
Dockworkers shut down ports of Oakland & San Francisco for 24 hours

By Dave Welsh

Oakland, CA, April 4, 2011 - The power of workers to bring production to a halt was on dramatic display April 4th, when longshore workers of ILWU Local 10 shut down the ports of Oakland and San Francisco for 24 hours, in solidarity with the heroic struggles in Wisconsin.

The big container port of Oakland was deader than a doornail Monday at 6:00 a.m. I saw a long snake-line of trucks bearing shipping containers idled on the roadway. The shipping cranes were all “standing at attention” – i.e., not working any containers. [These are same Port of Oakland cranes that gave George Lucas the idea for some of his “Star Wars” imagery.]

The ILWU hiring hall was practically deserted at dispatch time for the night shift, leaving several hundred jobs unfilled. The dock workers stayed away, and no cargo was worked on any shift Monday in Oakland or San Francisco.

The rank-and-file-initiated shutdown was part of nationwide actions on April 4th to challenge the draconian budget cuts and union busting in Wisconsin and other states.

An “organized act of resistance” by rank-and-file dock workers

“This was a voluntary rank and file action – an organized act of resistance,” said Clarence Thomas, a dock worker and Local 10 executive board member.

“It is significant that the action by Local 10 was taken in solidarity with Wisconsin public sector workers who are facing the loss of collective bargaining,” Thomas said. He pointed out that April 4th is also the anniversary of the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. – who was killed in Memphis demanding collective bargaining for sanitation workers in that city.

“So we’ve come full circle,” he concluded. The Memphis public workers got their union, after a two-month strike. Now 40 years later their Wisconsin counterparts are threatened with losing theirs. But it is Wisconsin’s “fierce resistance that is inspiring all of us today.”

It is not surprising that the 24-hour port work stoppage came out of International Longshore & Warehouse Union Local 10, a racially diverse, predominantly African American local, and the home local of legendary labor leader Harry Bridges. Martin Luther King was named an honorary member of Local 10, six months before he was killed.

Oakland teachers shut down Wells Fargo Bank for 3 hours on Apr. 4

The Oakland Education Association has been facing crippling attacks on the public school system - including layoff notices for 600 of their members. When the April 4th Day of Action arrived, the OEA chose to protest at Wells Fargo Bank in downtown Oakland, demanding “Bail out schools, not banks.”

About 100 teachers and supporters chanted, marched and sat down at the bank entrance, effectively shutting down the bank for three hours. They set up a makeshift classroom in the bank plaza to teach about the key role of the banks in bringing on today’s economic crisis. OEA President Betty Olson-Jones pointed out that Wells Fargo received a $50 Billion federal bailout, and the people chanted: “Banks took our money…Now give it to the schools!”

Protesters took turns at the bullhorn:

1. They demanded that workers' jobs, pensions, schools & social services must be safeguarded before one cent of interest is paid to the banks and wealthy bond investors. Which has priority, they asked: Profits for the wealthy, or our children’s future?

2. They highlighted Wells Fargo's role in the foreclosure epidemic – affecting many families of district school children – and demand a moratorium on foreclosures, so families can stay in their homes. An OEA press release said Wells Fargo must "stop foreclosures and lower mortgage debt to reflect homes' reduced market value."

The Bail out the People Movement organized demonstrations Monday at Wells Fargo branches in Los Angeles and Baltimore, in solidarity with the teachers’ action in Oakland. Wells Fargo is based in California, with their main headquarters in San Francisco.

NOTE: Attached photos of the Oakland docks are by Delores Lemon-Thomas


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