Hats off to the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) for today's decision by the rank-and-file to take the day off as a West-Coast wide protest against the illegal war in Iraq.
Here in Portland, 1300 ILWU members stayed home from work at ports in Portland, Vancouver, Astoria and Longview to join over 25,000 union members up and down the West Coast in objecting to the illegal war in Iraq.
From the ILWU press release:
"Longshore workers are standing-down on the job and standing up for America," said ILWU International President Bob McEllrath. "We’re supporting the troops and telling politicians in Washington that it’s time to end the war in Iraq."
McEllrath says rank-and-file members made their own democratic decision in early February when Longshore Caucus delegates voted to take action on May 1. Employers were notified of the plan, but refused to accommodate the union’s request despite plenty of advance notice. The employer group, represented by the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) consists of large carriers and port operators, most of which are foreign-owned.
"Big foreign corporations that control global shipping aren’t loyal or accountable to any country," said McEllrath. "For them it’s all about making money. But longshore workers are different. We’re loyal to America, and we won’t stand by while our country, our troops, and our economy are destroyed by a war that’s bankrupting us to the tune of 3 trillion dollars. It’s time to stand up, and we’re doing our part today."
Of course, even though the Pacific Maritime Association (the body who manages these ports) knew about the union's request to take May 1 off well over a month ago, the PMA refused the request, and are now spinning the protest into an attempt by the union to impact negotiations at the bargaining table.
This is not even a full 24 hour stand-down. The workers are staying home for the day-shift only- swing and graveyard shifts will be staffed as usual. Yet the PMA cries "illegal strike" even though they knew this was coming clear back when the vote was taken in February. In fact, the stand-down wasn't expected to impact operations significantly, as stated in the LA Times:
Still, both union and port officials said they did not expect the loss of a single shift to affect the overall operations. At the ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach today, 15 ships were due to dock. Port officials said all were coming into berth as expected and will wait there until work gets underway again about 6 p.m.
The ILWU should be commended for protesting this illegal war, not condemned for it. They should also be protesting the Bush Administration's failure to properly secure the ports and assure the safety of the employees of the ports. Instead, the Administration is more interested in making sure we're not taking toothpaste and hair gel on the plane and putting Nelson Mandela on the no-fly list. The Administration sold out our ports to foreign entities who could care less about the port employees, or the nature of the goods coming in and out of the ports.
There's plenty to protest here, and good for the ILWU for standing up!