May Day labor action for withdrawal from Iraq

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Richard Moore

Apr 13, 2008, 4:52:07 AM4/13/08
to,,, Monty Kroopkin


Subject: May Day labor action for withdrawal from Iraq
Date: 13 April 2008 08:07:57 IST


The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) has called for a strike on May 1, 2008, against the Iraq War. The article in the ILWU publication, Dispatcher,

"Stop work meetings on May 1 will focus on Iraq War" announces the action. See at and it is on page 2 of the pdf copy of the Dispatcher.

Below, are (1) a call -- for spreading the strike to other unions and for solidarity statements to the ILWU -- from Clarence Thomas, National Co-Chair of the Million Worker March Movement (he is also President of ILWU Local 10) and (2) an article from the San Francisco Chronicle, by Jack Heyman, a longshoreman who works on the Oakland docks, reporting on how the ILWU made this strike call.

And, attached, is a solidarity statement from independent presidential candidate and former congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. It is included here not as a candidate endorsement, but because the issues and history she raises deserves a wider discussion.

Please circulate this material widely within the labor movement and the anti-war movement. Please forward it to your union, your church group, community groups, your family and friends.

ONE DAY strike (or 'sick-out') may not seem like a very big step, compared to say, an INDEFINITE strike, but, it is a HUGE step forward from where we are now. And, doing something more serious, like strikes against the war, is something we need to learn how to do, one step at a time.

May Day this year, as for the past two years, is also a day immigrant rights groups have called for multi-tactic (including strikes, boycotts, lunch rallies, etc.) and multi-issue actions to support the rights of immigrant workers, their families and the rights of all working people. The call (online at ) is for decentralized actions, for everyone to pledge to support immigrant workers rights, while local groups can also choose "any other topics for their mobilizations: civil rights, anti-war, Katrina, labor rights, health care, etc." Millions of people, especially in the peace, social justice and labor movements, have been inspired by these May Day actions of 2006 and 2007.

In unity there is strength.

Solidarity and Have a Great May Day,
Monty Reed Kroopkin
Steward, in Local 221, Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
member, in Printing and Publishing House Workers Industrial Union 450 (IWW)
Editor, Wildcat News Service

"An Injury to One, Is an Injury to All!"


Clarence Thomas has sent this letter to the Trade Union Movement, and is also asking people to get the word out for the anti-war movement to stand in solidarity with them on May 1st.  Please spread this letter far and wide.  Please take a moment to write to Mr. McEllrath and express solidarity. Let's show that the anti-war movement and the labor movement will join forces.  United!


             As a result of an important action taken at the recent International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) Caucus, Longshore workers will stop work during the first shift in opposition to the war in Iraq, on May 1, 2008.  They will also use this occasion to acknowledge International Workers Day to express labor solidarity concerning issues and challenges that confront workers.
            This war has cost more than 4,000 American lives and 29,000 have been seriously injured.  It has been estimated that 1 million Iraqis have lost their lives, untold have been injured and 4 million have been displaced in this illegal and immoral war and occupation.  The war is costing $435 million per day.  So far, $526 billion has been expended on the war. The daily amount spent on the war could enroll 58,000 youngsters in Head Start or provide health insurance to 329,200 low-income children.
             We're writing to ask you to contact ILWU President Robert McEllrath with a letter of solidarity and support for the Longshore Caucus' resolution to use International Workers Day to "stop work to stop the war."  Please ask other unions to do the same.

                                                                    Robert McEllrath, ILWU President
                                                                             1188 Franklin Street
                                                                         San Francisco, CA  94109
                                                                               (415) 775-0533
                                                                               (415) 775-1302 (fax)

Your support in spreading the word of this historic action is very important.

In Solidarity,

Clarence Thomas
National Co-Chair
Million Worker March Movement


Longshoremen to close ports on West Coast to protest war

by Jack Heyman

Wednesday, April 9, 2008
San Francisco Chronicle

While millions of people worldwide have marched
against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and last
week's New York Times/CBS News poll indicated that 81
percent believe the country is headed in the wrong
direction - key concerns being the war and the economy
- the war machine inexorably grinds on.

Amid this political atmosphere, dockworkers of the
International Longshore and Warehouse Union have
decided to stop work for eight hours in all U.S. West
Coast ports on May 1, International Workers' Day, to
call for an end to the war.

This decision came after an impassioned debate where
the union's Vietnam veterans turned the tide of
opinion in favor of the anti-war resolution. The
motion called it an imperial action for oil in which
the lives of working-class youth and Iraqi civilians
were being wasted and declared May Day a "no peace, no
work" holiday. Angered after supporting Democrats who
received a mandate to end the war but who now continue
to fund it, longshoremen decided to exercise their
political power on the docks.

Last month, in response to the union's declaration,
the Pacific Maritime Association, the West Coast
employer association of shipowners, stevedore
companies and terminal operators, declared its
opposition to the union's protest. Thus, the stage is
set for a conflict in the run up to the longshore
contract negotiations.

The last set of contentious negotiations (in 2002)
took place during the period between the 9/11
terrorist attacks and the invasion of Iraq.
Representatives of the Bush administration threatened
that if there were any of the usual job actions during
contract bargaining, then troops would occupy the
docks because such actions would jeopardize "national
security." Yet, when the PMA employers locked out the
longshoremen and shut down West Coast ports for 11
days, the "security" issue vanished. President Bush
then invoked the Taft-Hartley Act, forcing
longshoremen back to work under conditions favorable
to the employers.

The San Francisco longshore union has a proud history
of opposition to the war in Iraq, being the first
union to call for an end to the war and immediate
withdrawal of troops. Representatives of the union
spoke at anti-war rallies in February 2003, including
one in London attended by nearly 2 million people, the
largest ever held in Britain. Executive Board member
Clarence Thomas went to Iraq with a delegation to
observe workers' rights during the occupation.

At the start of the war in Iraq, hundreds of
protesters demonstrated on the Oakland docks, and
longshoremen honored their picket lines. Without
warning, police in riot gear opened fire with
so-called less-than-lethal weapons, shooting
protesters and longshoremen alike with wooden dowels,
rubber bullets, pellet bags, concussion grenades and
tear gas. A U.N Human Rights Commission investigator
characterized the Oakland police attack as "the most
violent" against anti-war protesters in the United

And finally, last year, two black longshoremen going
to work in the port of Sacramento were beaten, Maced
and arrested by police under the rubric of Homeland
Security regulations ordained by the "war on terror."

There's precedent for this action. In the '50s, French
dockworkers refused to load war materiel on ships
headed for Indochina, and helped to bring that
colonial war to an end. At the ILWU's convention in
San Francisco in 2003, A. Q. McElrath, an octogenarian
University of Hawaii regent and former ILWU organizer
from the pineapple canneries, challenged the delegates
to act for social justice, invoking the union's
slogan, "An injury to one is an injury to all." She
concluded, "The cudgel is on the ground. Will you pick
it up?"

It appears that longshore workers may be doing just
that on May Day and calling on immigrant workers and
others to join them.

May Day protest

WHEN: 10:30 a.m., May 1, followed by a rally at noon.

WHERE: Longshore Union Hall, corner of Mason and Beach
(near Fisherman's Wharf).

WHAT: March to a rally at Justin Herman Plaza along
the Embarcadero.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:;; or call (415) 776-8100.

Jack Heyman is a longshoreman who works on the Oakland

This article appeared on page B - 9 of the San
Francisco Chronicle

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