SEIU Local 1021, consisting of 200+ port workers at the Port of Oakland, had been without a contract for more than a year. The Port's management had demanded concessions on health care benefits and was proposing other take backs as well, all the while showing massive surpluses while having their executives caught "entertaining" at strip clubs and falsifying the expense reports.
The Local decided a couple of months ago that enough was enough (or not enough, as it were). Knowing that their membership wasn't single-handedly capable of pulling off a major action at the Port, they reached out to other labor unions, Occupy Oakland, the Justice for Alan Blueford Coalition, and other activist groups over the weekend before Thanksgiving, bringing them in on plans to shut down the Port of Oakland in a one-day strike on November 20th. And shut it down they did. With the support of ILWU dockworkers who refused to cross the picket lines, I'm told no cargo went in or out of the port for 24 hours.
No cargo in. No cargo out.
That was more than sufficient to force Mayor Quan (she who called Occupy Oakland's identical one-day shutdown of the Port on December 12th, 2011 "economic violence") to send her flying monkeys off to bring the two parties back to the negotiating table, claiming credit for being a peacemaker -- while taking pains not to speak of economic violence.
The result of this one day action and subsequent restarted negotiations? The Port caved. Big time.
Union workers announced Saturday they had voted yes to ratify a no concessions, four-year contract with the Port of Oakland after the workers went on strike last month...We know where the real credit lies, and it's not with Jean Quan. It's with the hundreds of workers and community activists who came out in the miserable wet and cold at 5:00 AM, set up the pickets lines, and didn't leave until the all-clear was sounded late that afternoon. And with their implicit but clear threat that they were prepared to do it again if necessary, longer and with even more people.
Some of the tentative agreements highlighted by the union in the contract include a 2.5 percent cost of living increase in 2013 and 2014, a signing bonus of $3,500 for each employee and all economic takeaways withdrawn, among others.
What Say You, Michigan?
Michigan's labor unions are now faced with the passage of a right to work (for less) law in the cradle of the unionized US auto industry by the state's Republican lame-duck legislature (as numerous Daily Kos diaries over these last few days have detailed). Labor in Michigan has two options. They can sit there are take it, rallying for a day on Tuesday in Lansing, shouting slogans and then picking up to go home, hoping beyond hope to repeal the law two years hence via either a ballot initiative or via a new legislature. Or they can send an impossible-to-ignore message to the one percent that control the Michigan legislature by shutting down key portions of Michigan's economy.
Michigan's labor unions and progressives, at this crucial juncture, should be taking their cues from SEIU Local 1021 in Oakland and the Chicago Teachers Union. As much as it pains me to say it, they should not take their cue from Wisconsin, where hundreds of thousands of brave protesters tried valiantly but ultimately failed to achieve their goals. Occupying the Capitol made news around the world, but without a real threat to the pocketbooks of those who long ago attached puppet strings to Scott Walker and his cronies, anti-labor legislation was never repealed, the Governor was not ousted, and Wisconsin has now reverted back to total control by the Republicans of its legislature.
Your move, Wolverines.
Shut it down. Just make sure Alyssa is there to tweet about it!