International labour conference to stop Iraq war in San Francisco, USA

This video from the USA says: ‘On Oct. 26, 2002, a massive rally was held in Washington, D.C. opposing any U.S. war with Iraq. It features the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the ILWU, Lynn Stewart, Susan Sarandon and the ANSWER coalition.’

From British daily News Line:

Thursday, 9 August 2007


ILWU Locals 10 and 34 are organising an International Labour Conference to Stop the War, on October 20 from 9am-5 pm in San Francisco, California.

Its statement declares:

‘As the war in Iraq and Afghanistan enters its seventh year, opposition to the war among working people in the United States and the world is massive and growing.

The “surge” strategy of sending in more and more troops has become a fiasco for the Pentagon generals, while thousands of Iraqis are killed every month.

Before the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, millions marched against the war in Britain, Italy and Spain as hundreds of thousands took to the streets in the US to oppose it.

But that didn’t stop the invasion.

In the US, this “war on terror” has meant wholesale assault on civil liberties and workers’ rights, like the impending imposition of the hated TWIC card for port workers.

And the war keeps going on and on, as Democrats and Republicans in Congress keep on voting for it.

As historian Isaac Deutscher said during the Vietnam War, a single strike would be more effective than all the peace marches.

French dockworkers did strike in the port of Marseilles and helped bring an end to the war in Vietnam. To put a stop to this bloody colonial occupation, labour must use its power.

The International Warehouse and Longshore Union has opposed the war on Iraq since the beginning.

In the Bay Area, ILWU Local 10 has repeatedly warned that the so-called “war on terror” is really a war on working people and democratic rights.

Around the country, hundreds of unions and labor councils have passed motions condemning the war, but that has not stopped the war.

We need to use labour’s muscle to stop the war by mobilising union power in the streets, at the plant gates and on the docks to force the immediate and total withdrawal of all US troops from Afghanistan and Iraq.

The clock is ticking and it’s time to call it a wrap, as we say on the waterfront.

Labour action to bring the war machine to a grinding halt is long overdue.

During the run-up to the Iraq invasion, Bush citing port security imposed the slave-labour Taft-Hartley Law against the ILWU in collusion with the maritime employers group PMA and with the support of the Democrats.

Yet, he did nothing when PMA shut down every port on the US West Coast by locking out longshore workers just the week before!

In April 2003, when anti-war protesters picketed war cargo shippers, APL and SSA, in the Port of Oakland, police fired on picketers and longshoremen alike with their “less than lethal” ammo that left six ILWU members and many others seriously injured.

We refused to let our rights be trampled on, sued the city and won.

Democratic rights were reasserted a month later when anti-war protesters marched in the port and all shipping was stopped.

This past May, when anti-war protesters and the Oakland Education Association again picketed war cargo shippers in Oakland, longshoremen honoured the picket line. This is only the beginning.

Last year, Local 10 passed a resolution calling to ‘Strike Against the War – No Peace, No Work.’

The motion emphasised the ILWU’s proud history in opposing wars for imperial domination, recalling how in 1978 Local 10 refused to load bombs for the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile.

In the 1980s, Bay Area dock workers highlighted opposition to South African apartheid slavery by boycotting (“hot cargoing”) the Nedlloyd Kimberly, while in South Africa itself workers waged militant strikes to bring down the white supremacist regime.

Now Locals 10 and 34 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union have called for a “Labor Conference to Stop the War” to hammer out a program of action.

We’re saying: Enough! It’s high time to use union power against the bosses’ war, independent of the “bipartisan” war party.

The ILWU can again take the lead, but action against the war should not be limited to the docks.

We urge unions in the San Francisco Bay Area and throughout the country to attend the conference and plan workplace rallies, labour mobilisations in the streets and strike action against the war.

For information contact Jack Heyman – jackheyman [at]
400 North Point Street
San Francisco, CA
United States’

The last big action against the war was on May 19th when dozens of anti-war protesters including the leadership and many members of the Oakland Education Association OEA joined picket lines in the morning and in the evening of the SSA (Stevedoring Services of America) shipping terminal in Oakland, California, to protest against the war and the lack of funding for schools in Oakland.

The picketers demanded that the US get out of Iraq and called on other trade unionists throughout the United States to mobilise in action to stop the war.

The action which began in the early morning before the first day shift of ILWU Local 10 longshoremen and women as well as longshore clerks of ILWU Local 34 was organised to encourage the dockworkers to honour the picket line which they are allowed to do under their contract.

As a result of a political education campaign in the ILWU Local 10, most workers were fully in support of the picket and did not cross the line.

Newly elected Democratic mayor Ronald Dellums had also sent a letter to the Port Action committee that organised the picket which declared that the war ‘had been a blunder’ and said he opposed the war.

The police however not only prevented anti-war picketers from driving to the docks in the morning but also stopped major news media from bringing their vans to the picket lines to cover the demonstration.

The police when questioned by this reporter said that the news vans were not allowed in the area since it was a ‘safety issue’.

In 2003, the Oakland police in collaboration with the SSA company and state security forces launched a violent attack on a similar anti-war protest. They also shot at many ILWU members for the first time since the 1930s.

The picket line, which swelled as the morning went on, was manned by a large number of teachers and leaders of the Oakland Education Association who were not only angry about the war and the role of the port companies like SSA who are profiting off the war. This same company runs privatised docks in Iraq.

They were also picketing to protest the fact that West Oakland students who live next to the port have some of the worst conditions in the schools including poorly maintained sanitary facilities and equipment and supplies while the port of Oakland has an income of $38 billion a year.

OEA president Betty Olsen Jones pointed out that while Oakland is making tremendous income from the Port operations and could help provide funding for the schools they refuse to help out.

As a result of the crisis in the schools, the state has taken them over in a trusteeship and is rushing full speed ahead to privatise the schools with charters including a military charter set up by former mayor and now California Attorney General Jerry Brown.

Many of the Black longshore workers were angry that the Black community in Oakland is not benefiting from the massive income the port is making.

The Oakland Education Association is also supporting a $20 tax on each container that comes into the port that would go to the schools in Oakland so the education system would benefit from being home to the fourth largest port in the US.

Picket line organiser Jonathan Nack said: ‘It’s very important to understand that the union members knew they were risking losing their pay. Yet member after member told me that there is no way that they would cross the picket line.

‘These workers took a stand to end the war, and demand the Port give more money to fund local schools and social services.

The picket was called by the Port Action Committee, an ad hoc grouping of anti-war, labour, and community organisations. Port Action organised a rally on April 7th in front of the Port office building which commemorated the four year anniversary of the day Oakland police attacked non-violent anti-war protesters at the Port.

The British anti war movement: here.

6 thoughts on “International labour conference to stop Iraq war in San Francisco, USA

  1. Hi Kitty, My brother in law is a member of local 10. I was friends with many old timers from the port of SF. In fact, many friends and family work as longshoremen, merchant seamen and teamsters on both the East and West coast.

    This is a terrific article. Local 10 has a long history of refusing to handle cargo destined for war zones or oppressive regimes. However, I do have some criticism. I haven’t heard a word of this until I read it here. What remains of Bay Area labor tends to keep itself well insulated. Union officers will talk to each other, but exclude their members for fear of stirring up controversy, or losing control of the membership. “Labor” events tend to be publicized exclusively to paid union officers. They are also usually attended exclusively by paid union officers.
    I belong to a very undemocratic union that holds very few meetings and does nothing to educate the membership. ILWU is thousands of times better, but still likes to do things from the top down.

    Good to know that Bay Area labor is trying to stop the war, but sad to learn about it from a blogger who is thousands of miles away.

    Jon, member Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1575


  2. Hi Jon, thanks you for this interesting reaction! You, of course, know much better than I do how trade unions work in your area. In a sort of “defence” of the ILWU locals: they do publicize the anti war conference on the Internet, the announcement is at the top of . Maybe the announcement is very recent. There is still months till October 20 to involve more people for the conference. Can you bring it up in your union? Will you and/or your brother in law be at the conference? All best wishes to you!


  3. Lawrence of Arabia Had It Right
    Posted by: “G. Myrick”
    Wed Aug 8, 2007 8:45 am (PST)

    T. E. Lawrence, British agent from the London newspaper, The Sunday Times, August 1920:

    “The people of England have been led in Mesopotamia (Iraq) into a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honour. They have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of information. The Baghdad communiques are belated, insincere, incomplete. Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows. We are today not far from a disaster”.


    Lawrence of Arabia Had It Right About Iraq
    Excerpted from the article by Robert Fisk

    The Independent
    Jul 19, 2007

    Back in 1929, Lawrence of Arabia wrote the entry for “Guerrilla” in the 14th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. It is a chilling read-and here I thank one of my favourite readers, Peter Metcalfe of Stevenage, for sending me TE’s remarkable article-because it contains so ghastly a message to the American armies in Iraq.

    Writing of the Arab resistance to Turkish occupation in the 1914-18 war, he asks of the insurgents (in Iraq and elsewhere): “. suppose they were an INFLUENCE, a thing invulnerable, intangible, without front or back, drifting about like a gas? Armies were like plants, immobile as a whole, firm-rooted, nourished through long stems to the head. The Arabs might be a VAPOUR…”

    How typical of Lawrence to use the horror of gas warfare as a metaphor for insurgency. To control the land they occupied, he continued, the Turks “would have need of a fortified post every four square miles, and a post could not be less than 20 men. The Turks would need 600,000 men to meet the combined ill wills of all the local Arab people. They had 100,000 men available.”

    Now who does that remind you of? The “fortified post every four square miles” is the ghostly future echo of George W Bush’s absurd “surge”. The Americans need 600,000 men to meet the combined ill will of the Iraqi people, and they have only 150,000 available. Donald Rumsfeld, the architect of “war lite,” is responsible for that. Yet still these rascals get away with it.


    Oh, how we miss Lawrence. “The printing press is the greatest weapon in the armoury of the modern (guerrilla) commander,” he wrote 78 years ago, accurately predicting al-Qa’ida’s modern-day use of the internet. For insurgents, “battles were a mistake … Napoleon had spoken in angry reaction against the excessive finesse of the 18th century, when men almost forgot that war gave licence to murder”.

    True, the First World War Arab Revolt was not identical to today’s Iraqi insurgency. In 1917, the Turks had manpower but insufficient weapons. Today the Americans have the weapons but insufficient men. But listen to Lawrence again.

    “Rebellion must have an unassailable base … in the MINDS of men converted to its creed. It must have a SOPHISTICATED ALIEN ENEMY, in the form of a disciplined army of occupation too small to fulfil the doctrine of acreage: too few to adjust number to space, in order to dominate the whole area effectively from fortified posts.

    “It must have a friendly population, not actively friendly, but sympathetic to the point of not betraying rebel movements to the enemy. Rebellions can be made by 2 per cent active in a striking force, and 98 per cent passively sympathetic … Granted mobility, security … time, and doctrine … victory will rest with the insurgents, for the algebraical factors are in the end decisive, and against them perfections of means and spirit struggle quite in vain.”


    Read this at


  4. Pingback: US trade unionists against the Iraq war | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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