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Stop Bush's Takeover of ILA!

By Jack Heyman
July 1, 2005

WATERFRONT SCUTTLEBUTT FOR THE last couple of years was that the feds were going to bust heads in the ILA, the largest longshore union in the U.S.. Some maritime workers figured it's about time. But this story deserves a closer look. Thievery, especially the corporate kind, is rife in America. Just yesterday Richard Scrushy, head of HealthSouth, was let off "scot-free" despite overwhelming FBI evidence in a $2.7 billion accounting rip-off scheme. The money allegedly missing from the ILA Pension fund is a mere pittance in comparison. Today, criminal Enron executives are walking around free after bilking millions of people in a cruel energy scam. And Bush-connected Stevedoring Services of America got a multi-million dollar "no-bid" contract to run the Iraqi port of Um-Qasr. Why did young executive George W. Bush slip off the hook of "insider trading" deal charges at Harken Energy after avoiding being sent to war in Vietnam? Not because his daddy was president of the country and head of the CIA before that! Working class and lumpen crooks go to jail or get sent to war in Iraq, depending on their age and connections. Justice in America has never been blind. The refrain for the filthy rich ( mainly white, male) capitalist class rulers is "May Just Us Prevail". Some may be concerned with organized crime, but I'm more worried about the criminal gang that's running this country.
Republicans and Democrats, like Kennedy, have long talked about "cleaning up racketeering" in the unions especially the Teamsters and Longshore unions with the long arm of the government. But the only way democracy and independence will be brought to Iraq or to the trade unions here is through rank and file workers organizing in their own interests against the forces of capitalism and imperialism. A hundred years ago, a group of workers meeting to form a trade union was illegal, "criminal syndicalism". Employers have always sought to use the power of the capitalist government against unions. In 2002, during the last contract negotiations with the West Coast ILWU longshore union, maritime employers locked out longshoremen shutting down all U.S. West Coast ports, then the Bush administration invoked the slave-labor Taft-Hartley Act against longshore workers. Earlier, Democrat Presidents FDR and Truman tried to deport ILWU President Harry Bridges, branding him a "red". Interestingly, the feds never went after the ILA tops in the '30's when the body of militant ILA longshoreman Pete Pantos was found floating off the Brooklyn docks. If the already divided AFL-CIO allows the U.S. government to takeover one union without even an outcry, then who's next? Perhaps one that is not afraid to take on the corporate thieves like United Airlines for stealing workers pensions; or autoworkers trying to protect their medical benefits; or nurses fighting to maintain decent hospital staffing for adequate patient care; or teachers striking to keep public schools open.

The rank-and-file ILA Longshore Workers Coalition took a significant step in organizing dockworkers against the last sellout contract. And one of their own, Charleston longshore union president, Ken Riley, was recently elected International Vice President, building his authority around a militant, international dockworker campaign called the Charleston 5 that pitted the union against a scab dock operation and overwhelming police repression. Supporting the use of the anti-labor RICO Act or the courts of a capitalist government against a trade union, even one that lacks democracy or accountability, is a mistaken tactic. It used to be a principle in the organized labor movement to oppose government intervention in any unions' affairs.

Labor needs to clean its own house. Bush's brush will leave lasting stains.

Jack Heyman #8780
ILWU San Francisco Local 10


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