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No cargo worked April 4 in solidarity with heroic Wisconsin

Dockworkers shut down ports of Oakland and San Francisco for 24 hours
By Dave Welsh |
April 11, 2011
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Oakland, CA - The power of workers to bring production to a halt was on dramatic display April 4, 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 4 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 4 is also the anniversary of the assassination of Rev. Dr. 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 in 1968.

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