Thursday, May 1, 2008

May Day Strike by Port Workers!

May Day Message from the Port Workers in Iraq to West
Coast dock workers in the U.S.

General Union of Port Workers of Iraq April 29th, 2008

U.S. Labor Against the War is pleased to be able to
share with you a statement of solidarity from the
General Union of Port Workers in Iraq to the
members of the International Longshore and
Warehouse Union (ILWU) in support of the decision
by ILWU members to shut down all the ports on the
West Coast on May Day 2008 as a demonstration of
their opposition to the war and occupation of Iraq.

In solidarity with the ILWU, the General Union of Port
Workers in Iraq will stop work for one hour on May Day
in the ports of Umm Qasr and Khor Al Zubair.

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

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

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

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)


Longshore Union Strikes Against War

Seattle Post-Intelligencer
April 29, 2008

By Peter Cole, Guest Columnist

On Thursday, May Day, the International Longshore and
Warehouse Union will declare an eight-hour strike to
protest the war in Iraq. Since the ILWU controls every
port along the U.S. Pacific Coast, including Seattle
and Tacoma, this strike demonstrates the collective
power of workers willing to use it.

The ILWU is demanding "an immediate end to the war and
occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan and the withdrawal
of U.S. troops from the Middle East." Although the
majority of Americans repeatedly have expressed their
desire to end the war, President [sic]Bush has not obliged
us, so it drags on. Because our leaders refuse to
listen, ILWU members are taking the next logical step
for workers: Strike.

For those unfamiliar, the ILWU is perhaps the most
militant and politicized worker organization in the
nation. It operates in one of the most important
sectors of the world economy -- marine transport --
and, thus, is in a strategic location to put peace
above profits.

Forged in the fires of 1930s worker struggles to gain
basic rights, the ILWU was born in 1934 when
longshoremen (there were no women in the industry then,
though there are now) performed the incredibly hard,
dangerous and important work of loading and unloading
ships. To improve their wages and wrest some control
over their lives, men all along the coast struck -- and
in a few instances died -- to gain union recognition.

The ILWU is highly democratic. A caucus of more than
100 longshore workers representing every union local
establishes policies for the Longshore Division. It was
this caucus that voted to declare the May Day strike.

Dockworkers, including those in the ILWU, have a proud
tradition of political action. For example, in the
1980s the ILWU respected the strike of British
dockworkers by refusing to unload a ship worked by scab
labor. Just last week, union longshoremen in South
Africa refused to unload a Chinese vessel carrying
military supplies destined for autocratic Zimbabwe -- a
tremendous example of solidarity.

That the ILWU chose International Workers' Day to
declare this strike suggests its political commitment
and internationalism. Around the world, workers honor
labor by taking a holiday. What few Americans know is
that the tradition of a May Day strike originated not
in the Soviet Union in the 1950s but the United States
of the 1880s.

These days, such examples of worker power are
increasingly rare in the U.S. The tragedy is that,
historically, labor activism gave us the 40-hour
workweek (and the weekend) and helped humanize the
exploitative excesses of unregulated capitalism. As
income inequality continues to grow in the United
States, it is wise to remember how, in the past, strong
unions created a larger middle class as well as a more
democratic and egalitarian nation.

The ILWU strike also reminds us that unions still have
an important role in public discussions beyond the
workplace. As a democratic institution, the ILWU is
precisely the sort of "civic society" that the Bush
administration has been trying to create in Iraq. On
May 1, dockworkers will speak loud and clear -- end the
endless war in Iraq. Other American workers who want to
support our troops by bringing them home can make their
voices heard by joining with the brave men and women of
the ILWU and taking the day off.

Peter Cole is an associate professor of history at
Western Illinois University in Macomb, Ill. His book
"Wobblies on the Waterfront: Interracial Unionism in
Progressive-Era Philadelphia" was published by the
University of Illinois Press.

© 1998-2008 Seattle Post-Intelligencer

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