""ILWU, ILWU!""

""ILWU, ILWU!""

I read your June 5-11 article Under Siege: Can McWilliams unite a fractious ILWU? and found I had real disagreements with the premise that the union does not support the social activism that has led to coastwide port shutdowns.

As one of the organizers for the demonstrations against the WTO last Nov. 30, I spoke to many ILWU locals. The members overwhelmingly, often unanimously, voted to support the ''fair trade not free trade'' protest and a thousand attended the festivities in Seattle - at their own expense. The shutdown couldn't have happened without fervent rank-and-file support.The article was cold wrong in asserting that the younger workers look only to their paychecks. Not only did they vote in great numbers for the shutdown, many of them led it. Like Harry Bridges before him, ILWU President Brian McWilliams does not have to impose a social conscience on his members, they have plenty of it on their own.

In Seattle, ILWU members ex-pressed their concern for their fellow workers with great emotion. They are people who load empty containers to be shipped back to Asia and unload containers of stowaways escaping from China. They know that unfair trade kills American jobs and accelerates the race to the bottom in global living standards. They know sweatshop conditions kill third-world workers. ILWU workers are neither rich enough nor cynical enough to say ''so what, I've got mine,'' as JoC Week insinuated.

Whether the members support McWilliams or not in the union's election is their own business, but I heard the cheers for McWilliams on CNN as he announced the Nov. 30 shutdown before 20,000 unionists in Seattle. From the back of the stadium the union's members chanted ''ILWU! ILWU!'' They sure supported social activism that day.

Juliette Beck

Global Exchange

San Francisco