Oakland Port Anti-War And Labor Protesters Close SSA Terminal for the day-ILWU 10 & ILWU34 Members Refuse to Cross Lines
by Steve Zeltzer
Oakland Port picket 5-19-07
Oakland Port ILWU Stands by
DOZENS OF ANTI-WAR protesters including the leadership and many members of
the Oakland Education Association OEA joined the picket lines this morning
and in the evening of the SSA (Stevedoring Services of America) shipping
terminal in Oakland, California to protest the war and the lack of funding
for schools in Oakland. The picketers demanded that the US get out of Iraq
and called on other trade unionists throughout the United States to mobilize
in action to stop the war.
The action which began at in the early morning before the first day shift of
ILWU Local 10 longshoremen and women as well as longshore clerks of ILWU
Local 34 was organized to encourage the dockworkers to honor the picket line
which they are allowed to do under their contract. As a result of a
political education campaign in the ILWU Local 10, most workers were fully
in support of the picket and did not cross the line. Newly elected
Democratic mayor Ronald Dellums had also sent a letter to the Port Action
committee that organized the picket which declared that the war "had been a
blunder" and said he opposed the war. The police however not only prevented
anti-war picketer from driving to the docks in the morning but also stopped
major news media from bringing their vans to the picketlines to cover the
demonstration. The police when questioned by this reporter said that the
news vans were not allowed in the area since it was a "safety issue".
In 2003, the Oakland police in collaboration with the SSA company and state
security forces launched a violent attack on a similar anti-war protest.
They also shot at many ILWU members for the first time since the 1930's.
The picket line which swelled as the morning went on was manned by a large
number of teachers and leaders of the Oakland Education Association who were
not only angry about the war and the role of the port companies like SSA who
are profiting off the war This same company runs privatized docks in Iraq.
They were also picketing to protest the fact that West Oakland students who
live next to the port have some of the worst conditions in the schools
including poorly maintained sanitary facilities and equipment and supplies
while the port of Oakland has an income of $38 billion a year. OEA
president Betty Olsen Jones pointed out that while Oakland is making
tremendous income from the Port operations and could help provide funding
for the schools they refuse to help out.
As a result of the crisis in the schools, the state has taken them over in a
trusteeship and is rushing full speed ahead to privatize the schools with
charters including a military charter set up by former mayor and now
California Attorney General Jerry Brown. Many of the Black longshore workers
were angry that the Black community in Oakland is not benefiting from the
massive income the port is making. The Oakland Education Association is also
supporting a $20 tax on each container that comes into the port that would
go to the schools in Oakland so the education system would benefit from
being home to the fourth largest port in the US.
One ILWU longshoreman, Anthony said that he supported the protesters and
it was not just an issue of the war but of a system that is based on
profits that will not take care of the needs of working people here or
around the world. One of the reason the longshoreman also agreed to honor
the picket line was the anger at the Oakland police attack on them and
anti-war protesters on April 7, 2003.
After two hours on the picket line and a ruling that this was not a health
and safety issue by the ILWU-PMA arbitrator, the company sent nearly 150
workers home without pay. Picketing also continued on the night shift and
similar action was taken by the longshore workers not to cross the picket
line. They announced that one of the reasons they would not be crossing the
line was the vicious police attack on anti-war protesters and longshoremen
This action while small has significant lessons for successful workers
actions against the war nationally and internationally.