Organizing Workers Strikes Against War and Repression

Heyman, Jack
Date Written:  2018-05-01
Publisher:  CounterPunch
Year Published:  2018
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX22630

A Brief History of Labour Strikes Against Imperialist Wars and Reaction



Lessons of the 2008 Longshore Strike Against U.S. Imperialist War

May Day 2018 is the 10th anniversary of the longshore strike against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan which shut down all West Coast ports from the Canadian to the Mexican border to demand the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops. The shutdown and protest by members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) was a stunning show of labor’s power and a call to action addressed to other unions and anti-war activists and drew much attention and support in the Bay Area and Seattle. It was the first strike action by U.S. workers against a U.S. imperialist war in 90 years.

And the effect of the 2008 strike continues to this day. On May Day 2015, ILWU Local 10 shut down the Port of Oakland and marched to Oscar Grant Plaza in front of City Hall demanding "Stop Police Terror." Last year the Longshore Caucus with delegates representing 29 all West Coast ports voted to stop work every May Day, the international workers day. This year the port workers are protesting in particular the police killing of Stephon Clark in Sacramento and Saheem Tindle, gunned down by BART police in West Oakland.Yet, when directed by the highest body in the union's longshore division to take unified Coast action, the ILWU International officers have not mobilized the membership into action.

In 2008, the marquee on the Grand Lake Theater in Oakland proclaimed: "We salute the longshoremen's May Day strike to protest the criminal occupation of Iraq". Few unions aside from ILWU longshoremen actually took any action that day, but postal workers held "moments of silence". The faculty union at the largest public university, the City University of New York (CUNY) called for events in solidarity with the longshore workers. Unions from around the world sent messages of solidarity, as did the Vermont and South Carolina state AFL-CIO's. As the Brass Band played The Internationale spirited demonstrators marched from the San Francisco longshore union hall at Fisherman's Wharf along the Embarcadero, the site of historic maritime labor struggles. They were joined by other transport workers, like the Inlandboatmen's Union, the Oakland teachers, S.F. State students, even the SEIU dancers from the Lusty Lady strip club and many others.
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