3/2/08

Workers to shut U.S. ports in May Day protest

In a major step for the U.S. labor movement, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) has announced that it will shut down West Coast ports on May 1, to demand an immediate end to the war and occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan and the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the Middle East. In a February 22 letter to AFL-CIO president John Sweeney, ILWU International president Robert McEllrath reported that at a recent coast-wide union meeting, “One of the resolutions adopted by caucus delegates called on longshore workers to stop work during the day shift on May 1, 2008 to express their opposition to the war in Iraq.”

This is the first time in decades that an American union has decided to undertake industrial action against a U.S. war. It is doubly important that this mobilization of labor’s power is to take place on May Day, the international workers day, which is not honored in the U.S. Moreover, the resolution voted by the ILWU delegates opposes not only the hugely unpopular war in Iraq, but also the war and occupation of Afghanistan (which Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and Republican John McCain all want to expand). The motion to shut down the ports also demands the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the entire region, including the oil sheikdoms of the strategically important Persian/Arab Gulf.

The Internationalist Group has fought from the moment U.S. troops invaded Afghanistan in September 2002 for American unions to strike against the war. Despite the fact that millions have marched in the streets of Europe and the United States against the war in Iraq, the war goes on. Neither of the twin war parties of U.S. imperialism – Democrats and Republicans – and none of the capitalist candidates will stop this horrendous slaughter that has already killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. The only way to stop the Pentagon killing machine is by mobilizing the power of a greater force – that of the international working class.

The action announced by the powerful West Coast dock workers union, to stop work to stop the war, should be taken up by unions and labor organizations throughout the United States and internationally. The ILWU should be commended for courageously taking the first step, and it is up to working people everywhere to back them up. Wherever support is strong enough, on May 1 there should be mass walkouts, sick-outs, labor marches, plant-gate meetings, lunch-time rallies, teach-ins. And the purpose of such actions should be not to beg the bourgeois politicians whose hands are covered with blood, having voted for every war budget for six and a half years, but a show of strength of the working people who make this country run, and who can shut it down!

Now is the time for bold class action. Opposition to the war is even greater in the U.S. working class than in the population as a whole, more than two-thirds of which wants to stop the war but is stymied by the capitalist political system. In his letter to Sweeney, the ILWU president asked “if other AFL-CIO affiliates are planning to participate in similar events.” Labor militants should make sure the answer to that question is a resounding “yes!”

There should be no illusions that this will be easy. No doubt the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) bosses will try to get the courts to rule the stop-work action illegal. The ILWU leadership could get cold feet, since this motion was passed because of overwhelming support from the delegates despite attempts to stop it or, failing that, to water it down or limit the action. And the U.S. government could try to ban it on the grounds of “national security,” just as Bush & Co. slapped a Taft-Hartley injunction on the docks during contract negotiations in the fall of 2002, saying that any work stoppage was a threat to the “war effort,” and threatened to occupy the ports with troops!

The answer to every attempt to sabotage or undercut this first labor action against this war, and against Washington’s broader “war on terror” which is intended to terrorize the world into submission must be to redouble efforts to bring out workers’ power independent of the capitalist parties and politicians. If the ILWU work stoppage is successful, it will only be a small, but very important, beginning that must be generalized and deepened. It will take industrial-strength labor action to defeat the imperialist war abroad and the bosses’ war on immigrants, oppressed minorities, poor and working people “at home.”

(indybay.org)

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails