The Occupy Movement is calling for a shutdown of all West Coast ports on Dec. 12, but they will have to pursue their goal without the cooperation of the powerful International Longshore and Warehouse Union.
The movement's declaration comes about three weeks after thousands of Occupy Oakland protestors halted nighttime operations at the Port of Oakland on Nov. 2. The ILWU voiced support for the Oakland protest, but a letter from the ILWU Coast Committee in San Francisco to all longshore locals on the West Coast shows a position shift:
“To be clear, the ILWU, the Coast Longshore Division and Local 21 are not coordinating independently or in conjunction with any self-proclaimed organization or group to shut down any port or terminal, particularly as it related to our dispute with EGT in Longview (Wash).”
In fact, the ILWU Coast Committee appears perturbed that groups outside of the union “intent on driving their own agendas” are using ILWU issues to pursue their own goals.
The ILWU considers its dispute with EGT, which is attempting to open a grain terminal in Longview, Wash., with the use of non-ILWU labor, to be a crucial issue for the union, but the ILWU does not want outside groups using that issue to attract support from the union rank and file for a ports shutdown.
“Other social media groups that pretend to be ILWU-related but are in no way sanctioned or informed by the elected leadership are publicly trying to link the Coast Longshore Division’s primary labor dispute with EGT in Longview to the call for a ‘shut down’ of the West Coast ports,” the letter stated.
In order to effectively shut down West Coast ports, the Occupy Movement would have to position so many demonstrators at the entrances to the ports that they would present a safety threat to longshoremen who attempted to report to their jobs. An arbitrator appointed jointly by the ILWU and waterfront employers judged that the Occupy Oakland demonstrators on Nov. 2 created a condition for longshoremen that was officially considered to be unsafe under the waterfront contract.
The ILWU Coast Committee cautioned its members that if a similar situation develops on Dec. 12, longshoremen should stand by in a safe area and await a decision by employers to call for an arbitrator.
Furthermore, the committee reminded the longhsormen that public demonstrations are not picket lines under the waterfront contract.