First, the title of this post refers to me. My dad was a Longshoreman, in both trade and temperament. In fact his favorite movie was On the Waterfront which has a connection to a play. The name of this blog is a literary reference to that play, A View from the Bridge that included a Longshoreman as one of it’s main characters and was about the goings on, on the New York docks back in the day. The play takes place in Red Hook, Brooklyn. My mom and dad were both living in Red Hook when they first met and married.
One of the first “toys” I remember playing with as a child, was my fathers waterfront badge. It was a warn little piece of brass crudely stamped with my dad’s union ID number. Every night, my dad would call in and recite that number to find out if he was working the next day. Even years after he retired, he kept that badge on his keyring. So important was this symbol of union membership to him. If anyone wants to know where I learned to play socio-political hardball, it was originally on visits to pier five in Brooklyn, New York. I used to visit my dad at work there in my teens and learned but plenty from the burly men that worked there, (“ILA ALL THE WAY” and “WHO KILLED PENTO?”) at least till management banned me from entering the gate. But that’s another story…
Second, I am not blind to the spotty record of the ILA international. However, I also see the reform movement of ILA locals such as 1422. If you have worries about where the ILA has been and is going, I sugest you read the story of the “Charleston Five.” It can be read here:
I believe and hope it is reform minded locals like 1422 that will shape the future of the ILA. I did my best to find a link to ILA local 1422, but could not find one. I did however find this ILA reform site:
The “Charleston five” link above, takes you to a site I find very useful:
If you are interested in workplace issues and union reform, these sites are valuable resources…
Third, I usually avoid posting reprints of articles in full to avoid copyright infringement. However I am posting the following reprint in full because I believe that this is SO IMPORTANT an issue, and such a timely and well written article, that it deserves to get the widest possible exposure. I apologize to the copyright holder(s) and hope they understand that my intentions are good…
Longshoremen to Close Ports on West Coast to Protest War
By Jack Heyman
SF Gate (San Francisco Chronicle)
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
While millions of people worldwide have marched against
the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan , and last week’s New
York Times/CBS News poll indicated that 81 percent
believe the country is headed in the wrong direction –
key concerns being the war and the economy – the war
machine inexorably grinds on.
Amid this political atmosphere, dockworkers of the
International Longshore and Warehouse Union have
decided to stop work for eight hours in all U.S. West
Coast ports on May 1, International Workers’ Day, to
call for an end to the war.
This decision came after an impassioned debate where
the union’s Vietnam veterans turned the tide of opinion
in favor of the anti-war resolution. The motion called
it an imperial action for oil in which the lives of
working-class youth and Iraqi civilians were being
wasted and declared May Day a ‘no peace, no work’
holiday. Angered after supporting Democrats who
received a mandate to end the war but who now continue
to fund it, longshoremen decided to exercise their
political power on the docks.
Last month, in response to the union’s declaration, the
Pacific Maritime Association, the West Coast employer
association of shipowners, stevedore companies and
terminal operators, declared its opposition to the
union’s protest. Thus, the stage is set for a conflict
in the run up to the longshore contract negotiations.
The last set of contentious negotiations (in 2002) took
place during the period between the 9/11 terrorist
attacks and the invasion of Iraq . Representatives of
the Bush administration threatened that if there were
any of the usual job actions during contract
bargaining, then troops would occupy the docks because
such actions would jeopardize ‘national security.’ Yet,
when the PMA employers locked out the longshoremen and
shut down West Coast ports for 11 days, the ‘security’
issue vanished. President Bush then invoked the Taft-
Hartley Act, forcing longshoremen back to work under
conditions favorable to the employers.
The San Francisco longshore union has a proud history
of opposition to the war in Iraq , being the first union
to call for an end to the war and immediate withdrawal
of troops. Representatives of the union spoke at anti-
war rallies in February 2003, including one in London
attended by nearly 2 million people, the largest ever
held in Britain . Executive Board member Clarence Thomas
went to Iraq with a delegation to observe workers’
rights during the occupation.
At the start of the war in Iraq , hundreds of protesters
demonstrated on the Oakland docks, and longshoremen
honored their picket lines. Without warning, police in
riot gear opened fire with so-called less-than-lethal
weapons, shooting protesters and longshoremen alike
with wooden dowels, rubber bullets, pellet bags,
concussion grenades and tear gas. A U.N. Human Rights
Commission investigator characterized the Oakland
police attack as ‘the most violent’ against anti-war
protesters in the United States .
And finally, last year, two black longshoremen going to
work in the port of Sacramento were beaten, Maced and
arrested by police under the rubric of Homeland
Security regulations ordained by the ‘war on terror.’
There’s precedent for this action. In the ’50s, French
dockworkers refused to load war material on ships
headed for Indochina , and helped to bring that colonial
war to an end. At the ILWU’s convention in San
Francisco in 2003, A. Q. McElrath, an octogenarian
University of Hawaii regent and former ILWU organizer
from the pineapple canneries, challenged the delegates
to act for social justice, invoking the union’s slogan,
‘An injury to one is an injury to all.’ She concluded,
‘The cudgel is on the ground. Will you pick it up?’
It appears that longshore workers may be doing just
that on May Day and calling on immigrant workers and
others to join them.
May Day protest
WHEN: 10:30 a.m., May 1, followed by a rally at noon.
WHERE: Longshore Union Hall, corner of Mason and Beach
(near Fisherman’s Wharf).
WHAT: March to a rally at Justin Herman Plaza along the
Jack Heyman is a longshoreman who works on the Oakland
This article appeared on page B – 9 of the San
Regular readers of this blog will notice that I have finally learned to use the “block quote” feature and so will no longer have to use the garish red text I’ve been using to quote others 😉
“Men ‘long shore!”
The ILWU has a long tradition of political action. Over the years I have found myself in full agreement with most, if not all, of this excellent unions issues and actions. I hope any readers of this blog on the west coast (I being an east coast guy) will join the ILWU May 1st action. I also hope that any members of of the ILA (the east coast Longshoreman’s union) will get the brothers and sisters at the ILA to join this action.
Although the ILWU has officially endorsed one of the lesser candidates for president and I could note find who the ILA endorses, I hope the rank and file members of the ILWU and ILA will instead vote for the only candidate CALLING FOR THE REPEAL OF THE TAFT SHAFT (the taft-hartly act):
The Telepathic Crickets on the ClapSotronics editorial board and I hope you will vote for the ONLY TRULY PRO-UNION candidate running for President. RALPH NADER!
The scientifically impossible I do right away
The spiritually miraculous takes a bit longer