US West Coast dockers protest against war

Submitted by AWL on 20 March, 2008 - 8:53 Author: Jack Staunton

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union conference in San Francisco has passed a motion “calling on unions and working people in the US and internationally to mobilize for a “No Peace No Work Holiday” on May 1, 2008 for 8 hours to demand an immediate end to the war and occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan and the withdrawal of US troops from the Middle East”.

Their strike call is reminiscent of the actions taken at the outbreak of the war in Iraq by train drivers in Motherwell and Italian dockers who refused to transport arms, as well as the May 2007 teachers’ pickets of docks in Oakland. There have been moves in the past for the ILWU to take such action, but they have always been voted down. Anti-war sentiment on the docks has been batted down by the Bush administration – for example when the dockers were the target of “anti-terrorist” repression, as police fired supposedly “less than lethal” munitions point blank at an antiwar protest on the Oakland, California docks, injuring six longshore workers and arresting 25 people

However, it is somewhat unclear as to whether the workers’ action actually constitutes a strike and whether they will be “paralysing” the West Coast docks. They appear to have an arrangement with management for a training day each month, which is sometimes used for political activity, for example a recent day of action for Mumia Abu-Jamal on death row. At the ILWU conference some workers said that they should hold a 24 hour strike, the union leaders restricted it to the usual eight hours use of “training” time.

Nevertheless, the clarion call they have put out to the international workers’ movement shows the possibility of workers’ action against war and strikes to undermine our armed forces. Working-class anti-war activity must be seen as part of our solidarity with workers in the Middle East, showing as it does that the international working class is an independent force which can fight together against what US/UK imperialism is doing in the Middle East.

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