An arbitrator ordered the union that represents dockworkers at West Coast ports this week to tell its members they must report to work on Thursday and not take the day off to protest U.S. military conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
No one seems to care.
Members of the International Longshore & Warehouse Union are proceeding with plans for a work stoppage at 29 West Coast ports today to protest the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, despite the fact that union leadership has withdrawn its request to waterfront employers that they accommodate closure of the ports.
As Indymedia reports this is a rank and file action by union members who are united by their opposition to the war, and the disagree with the decision of the arbitrator who has dis-allowed the choice of May Day, by the ILWU, as a "day for union business" for workers at all 29 ports on the west coast. A "day for union business" is allowed by their contract. Their original intent was to use this day as their official protest, but official or not, the protest is on.
The AP reports terminal operators say West Coast cargo traffic has come to a halt as port workers stage daylong anti-war protests.
Pacific Maritime Association spokesman Steve Getzug says thousands of dockworkers did not show up to work Thursday morning, leaving ships and truck drivers idle at ports from Long Beach to Seattle (see picture above).
Union spokesman Craig Merrilees said the union was complying with the contract, but he declined to specify whether it had taken steps to order members to report to work as the arbitrator ordered.
“The decision by members to take a day off work on May 1 to protest the war is their right under the U.S. Constitution and it’s about time that citizens stood up to tell the truth about the need to end the war,” he said.
The Port Workers Union of Iraq will conduct a one hour work stoppage in two of the principal ports (Umm Qasr and Khor Alzubair) today, May Day, in solidarity with the ILWU's shutdown of West Coast Ports against the occupation.
The following is from Liberation News.
Iraqi Port Workers to Join US Strike
Members of the Port Workers Union of Iraq plan to shutdown the ports of Umm Qasr and Khor Alzubair for one hour on May Day in solidarity with the shutdown of all West Coast ports by members of ILWU in opposition to the occupation of Iraq .
The second message is a May Day greeting from a broad cross-section of union leaders from many different unions and labor federations in Iraq as an expression of their appreciation for the solidarity demonstrated by organized labor, working people and all peace-loving people of the world in support of their efforts to end the foreign occupation of Iraq and the sectarian violence that occupation has spawned.
[This statement continues to be circulated in Iraq and as additional signers become known, their names will be added to the copy posted on the USLAW website.]
May Day Message
From: The General Union of Port Workers in Iraq
To: The International Longshore and Warehouse Union in the United States
Dear Brothers and Sisters of ILWU in California :
The courageous decision you made to carry out a strike on May Day to protest against the war and occupation of Iraq advances our struggle against occupation to bring a better future for us and for the rest of the world as well.
We are certain that a better world will only be created by the workers and what you are doing is an example and proof of what we say. The labor movement is the only element in the society that is able to change the political equations for the benefit of mankind. We in Iraq are looking up to you and support you until the victory over the US administration's barbarism is achieved.
Over the past five years the sectarian gangs who are the product of the occupation, have been trying to transfer their conflicts into our ranks. Targeting workers, including their residential and shopping areas, indiscriminately using all sorts of explosive devices, mortar shells, and random shooting, were part of a bigger scheme that was aiming to tear up the society but they miserably failed to achieve their hellish goal. We are struggling today to defeat both the occupation and sectarian militias' agenda.
The pro-occupation government has been attempting to intervene into the workers affairs by imposing a single government-certified labor union. Furthermore it has been promoting privatization and an oil and gas law to use the occupation against the interests of the workers.
We the port workers view that our interests are inseparable from the interests of workers in Iraq and the world; therefore we are determined to continue our struggle to improve the living conditions of the workers and overpower all plots of the occupation, its economic and political projects.
Let us hold hands for the victory of our struggle.
Long live the port workers in California !
Long live May Day!
Long live International solidarity!
The General Union of Port Workers in Iraq An Affiliate Union with General Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq (GFWCUI)
May Day 2008 Statement
From: The Iraqi Labour Movement
To: The Workers and All Peace Loving People of the World
On this day of international labour solidarity we call on our fellow trade unionists and all those worldwide who have stood against war and occupation to increase support for our struggle for freedom from occupation - both the military and economic.
We call upon the governments, corporations and institutions behind the ongoing occupation of Iraq to respond to our demands for real democracy, true sovereignty and self-determination free of all foreign interference.
Five years of invasion, war and occupation have brought nothing but death, destruction, misery and suffering to our people. In the name of our "liberation," the invaders have destroyed our nation's infrastructure, bombed our neighbourhoods, broken into our homes, traumatized our children, assaulted and arrested many of our family members and neighbours, permitted the looting of our national treasures, and turned nearly twenty percent of our people into refugees.
The invaders helped to foment and then exploit sectarian divisions and terror attacks where there had been none. Our union offices have been raided. Union property has been seized and destroyed. Our bank accounts have been frozen. Our leaders have been beaten, arrested, abducted and assassinated. Our rights as workers have been routinely violated.
The Ba'athist legislation of 1987, which banned trade unions in the public sector and public enterprises (80% of all workers), is still in effect, enforced by Paul Bremer's post-invasion Occupation Authority and then by all subsequent Iraqi administrations. This is an attack on our rights and basic precepts of a democratic society, and is a grim reminder of the shadow of dictatorship still stalking our country.
Despite the horrific conditions in our country, we continue to organise and protest against the occupation, against workplaces abuses, and for better treatment and safer conditions.
Despite the sectarian plots around us, we believe in unity and solidarity and a common aim of public service, equality, and freedom to organise without external intrusions and coercion.
Our legitimacy comes from our members. Our principles of organisation are based on transparent and internationally recognised International Labour Organisation standards.
We call upon our allies and all the world's peace-loving peoples to help us to end the nightmare of occupation and restore our sovereignty and national independence so that we can chart our own course to the future.
1) We demand an immediate withdrawal of all foreign troops from our country, and utterly reject the agreement being negotiated with the USA for long-term bases and a military presence. The continued occupation fuels the violence in Iraq rather than alleviating it. Iraq must be returned to full sovereignty.
2) We demand the passage of a labour law promised by our Constitution, which adheres to ILO principles and on which Iraqi trade unionists have been fully consulted, to protect the rights of workers to organize, bargain and strike, independent of state control and interference.
3) We demand an end to meddling in our sovereign economic affairs by the International Monetary Fund, USA and UK . We demand withdrawal of all economic conditionalities attached to the IMF's agreements with Iraq , removal of US and UK economic "advisers" from the corridors of Iraqi government, and a recognition by those bodies that no major economic decisions concerning our services and resources can be made while foreign troops occupy the country.
4) We demand that the US government and others immediately cease lobbying for the oil law, which would fracture the country and hand control over our oil to multinational companies like Exxon, BP and Shell. We demand that all oil companies be prevented from entering into any long-term agreement concerning oil while Iraq remains occupied. We demand that the Iraqi government tear up the current draft of the oil law, and begin to develop a legitimate oil policy based on full and genuine consultation with the Iraqi people. Only after all occupation forces are gone should a long term plan for the development of our oil resources be adopted.
We seek your support and solidarity to help us end the military and economic occupation of our country. We ask for your solidarity for our right to organise and strike in defence of our interests as workers and of our public services and resources. Our public services are the legacy of generations before us and the inheritance of all future generations and must not be privatised.
We thank you for standing by us. We too stand with you in your own struggles for real democracy which we know you also struggle for, and against privatisation, exploitation and daily disempowerment in your workplaces and lives.
We commend those of you who have organised strikes and demonstrations to end the occupation in solidarity with us and we hope these actions will continue.
We look forward to the day when we have a world based on co-operation and solidarity. We look forward to a world free from war, sectarianism, competition and exploitation.
Hassan Juma'a Awad, President, Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions (IFOU)
Faleh Abood Umara, Deputy, Central Council, Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions (IFOU)
Falah Alwan, President, Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq (FWCUI)
Subhi Albadri, President, General Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq (GFWCUI)
Nathim Rathi, President, Iraqi Port Workers Trade Union
Samir Almuawi, President, Engineering Professionals Trade Union
Ghzi Mushatat, President, Mechanic and Print Shop Trade Union
Waleed Alamiri, President, Electricity Trade Union
Ilham Talabani, President, Banking Services Trade Union
Abdullah Ubaid, President, Railway Trade Union Ammar Ali, President, Transportation Trade Union
Abdalzahra Abdilhassan, President, Service Employees Trade Union
Sundus Sabeeh, President, Barber Shop Workers Trade Union
Kareem Lefta Sindan, President, Lumber and Construction Trade Union, General Federation of Iraqi Workers (GFIW)
Sabah Almusawi, President, Wasit Independent Trade Union
Shakir Hameed, President, Lumber And Construction Trade Union (GFWCUI)
Awad Ahmed, President, Teachers Federation of Salahideen Alaa
Ghazi Mushatat, President, Agricultural And Food Substance Industries Adnan
Rathi Shakir, President, Water Resources Trade Union
Nahrawan Yas, President, Woman Affairs Bureau
Sabah Alyasiri, President (GFWCUI) Babil
Ali Tahi, President (GFWCUI)
Najaf Ali Abbas, President (GFWCUI) Basra
Muhi Abdalhussien, President (GFWCUI), Wasit
Ali Hashim Abdilhussien, President (GFWCUI) Kerbala
Ali Hussien, President (GFWCUI) Anbar
Mustafa Ameen, President, Arab Workers Bureau (GFWCUI)
Thameer Mzeail, Health Services, Union Committee
Khadija Saeed Abdullah, Teachers Federation, Member
Asmahan, Khudair, Woman Affairs, Textile Trade Unions Adil
Aljabiri, Oil Workers Trade Union Executive Bureau Member
Muhi Abdalhussien, Nadia Flaih, Service Employees Trade Unions
Rawneq Mohammed, Member, Media and Print Shop Trade Union
Abdlakareem Abdalsada, Vice President (GFWCUI)
Saeed Nima, Vice President (GFWCUI)
Sabri Abdalkareem, Member, (GFWCUI) Babil
Amjad Aljawhary, Representative of GFWCUI in North America