May Day today in Iraq, USA, etc. for workers, against war

This video from the USA is called Press Conference on ILWU May Day Action Against War. Update on that action: here; and here.

Today, many workers around the world are active in May Day events.

Photos and news from Iran and Turkey are here.

From the USA: here.

May Day in Chicago: here.

In Iraq, workers were on strike, in solidarity with United States workers, against the war in Iraq:

Members of the Port Workers Union of Iraq plan to shutdown the ports of Umm Qasr and Khor Alzubair for one hour on May Day in solidarity with the shutdown of all West Coast ports by members of ILWU in opposition to the occupation of Iraq.

The second message is a May Day greeting from a broad cross-section of union leaders from many different unions and labor federations in Iraq as an expression of their appreciation for the solidarity demonstrated by organized labor, working people and all peace-loving people of the world in support of their efforts to end the foreign occupation of Iraq and the sectarian violence that occupation has spawned.

[This statement continues to be circulated in Iraq and as additional signers become known, their names will be added to the copy posted on the USLAW website.]

May Day Message

From: The General Union of Port Workers in Iraq
To: The International Longshore and Warehouse Union in the United States

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 well.

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 achieved.

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 workers.

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)

May Day 2008 Statement
From: The Iraqi Labour Movement
To: The Workers and All Peace Loving People of the World

On this day of international labour solidarity we call on our fellow trade unionists and all those worldwide who have stood against war and occupation to increase support for our struggle for freedom from occupation – both the military and economic.

We call upon the governments, corporations and institutions behind the ongoing occupation of Iraq to respond to our demands for real democracy, true sovereignty and self-determination free of all foreign interference.

Five years of invasion, war and occupation have brought nothing but death, destruction, misery and suffering to our people. In the name of our “liberation,” the invaders have destroyed our nation’s infrastructure, bombed our neighbourhoods, broken into our homes, traumatized our children, assaulted and arrested many of our family members and neighbours, permitted the looting of our national treasures, and turned nearly twenty percent of our people into refugees.

The invaders helped to foment and then exploit sectarian divisions and terror attacks where there had been none. Our union offices have been raided. Union property has been seized and destroyed. Our bank accounts have been frozen. Our leaders have been beaten, arrested, abducted and assassinated. Our rights as workers have been routinely violated.

The Ba’athist legislation of 1987, which banned trade unions in the public sector and public enterprises (80% of all workers), is still in effect, enforced by Paul Bremer’s post-invasion Occupation Authority and then by all subsequent Iraqi administrations. This is an attack on our rights and basic precepts of a democratic society, and is a grim reminder of the shadow of dictatorship still stalking our country.

Despite the horrific conditions in our country, we continue to organise and protest against the occupation, against workplaces abuses, and for better treatment and safer conditions.

Despite the sectarian plots around us, we believe in unity and solidarity and a common aim of public service, equality, and freedom to organise without external intrusions and coercion.

Our legitimacy comes from our members. Our principles of organisation are based on transparent and internationally recognised International Labour Organisation standards.

We call upon our allies and all the world’s peace-loving peoples to help us to end the nightmare of occupation and restore our sovereignty and national independence so that we can chart our own course to the future.

1) We demand an immediate withdrawal of all foreign troops from our country, and utterly reject the agreement being negotiated with the USA for long-term bases and a military presence. The continued occupation fuels the violence in Iraq rather than alleviating it. Iraq must be returned to full sovereignty.

2) We demand the passage of a labour law promised by our Constitution, which adheres to ILO principles and on which Iraqi trade unionists have been fully consulted, to protect the rights of workers to organize, bargain and strike, independent of state control and interference.

3) We demand an end to meddling in our sovereign economic affairs by the International Monetary Fund, USA and UK. We demand withdrawal of all economic conditionalities attached to the IMF’s agreements with Iraq, removal of US and UK economic “advisers” from the corridors of Iraqi government, and a recognition by those bodies that no major economic decisions concerning our services and resources can be made while foreign troops occupy the country.

4) We demand that the US government and others immediately cease lobbying for the oil law, which would fracture the country and hand control over our oil to multinational companies like Exxon, BP and Shell. We demand that all oil companies be prevented from entering into any long-term agreement concerning oil while Iraq remains occupied. We demand that the Iraqi government tear up the current draft of the oil law, and begin to develop a legitimate oil policy based on full and genuine consultation with the Iraqi people. Only after all occupation forces are gone should a long term plan for the development of our oil resources be adopted.

We seek your support and solidarity to help us end the military and economic occupation of our country. We ask for your solidarity for our right to organise and strike in defence of our interests as workers and of our public services and resources. Our public services are the legacy of generations before us and the inheritance of all future generations and must not be privatised.

We thank you for standing by us. We too stand with you in your own struggles for real democracy which we know you also struggle for, and against privatisation, exploitation and daily disempowerment in your workplaces and lives.

We commend those of you who have organised strikes and demonstrations to end the occupation in solidarity with us and we hope these actions will continue.

We look forward to the day when we have a world based on co-operation and solidarity. We look forward to a world free from war, sectarianism, competition and exploitation.

Endorsed by:

Hassan Juma’a Awad, President, Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions (IFOU)
Faleh Abood Umara, Deputy, Central Council, Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions (IFOU)
Falah Alwan, President, Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq (FWCUI)
Subhi Albadri, President, General Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq (GFWCUI)
Nathim Rathi, President, Iraqi Port Workers Trade Union
Samir Almuawi, President, Engineering Professionals Trade Union
Ghzi Mushatat, President, Mechanic and Print Shop Trade Union
Waleed Alamiri, President, Electricity Trade Union
Ilham Talabani, President, Banking Services Trade Union
Abdullah Ubaid, President, Railway Trade Union Ammar Ali, President, Transportation Trade Union
Abdalzahra Abdilhassan, President, Service Employees Trade Union
Sundus Sabeeh, President, Barber Shop Workers Trade Union
Kareem Lefta Sindan, President, Lumber and Construction Trade Union, General Federation of Iraqi Workers (GFIW)
Sabah Almusawi, President, Wasit Independent Trade Union
Shakir Hameed, President, Lumber And Construction Trade Union (GFWCUI)
Awad Ahmed, President, Teachers Federation of Salahideen Alaa
Ghazi Mushatat, President, Agricultural And Food Substance Industries Adnan
Rathi Shakir, President, Water Resources Trade Union
Nahrawan Yas, President, Woman Affairs Bureau
Sabah Alyasiri, President (GFWCUI) Babil
Ali Tahi, President (GFWCUI)
Najaf Ali Abbas, President (GFWCUI) Basra
Muhi Abdalhussien, President (GFWCUI), Wasit
Ali Hashim Abdilhussien, President (GFWCUI) Kerbala
Ali Hussien, President (GFWCUI) Anbar
Mustafa Ameen, President, Arab Workers Bureau (GFWCUI)
Thameer Mzeail, Health Services, Union Committee
Khadija Saeed Abdullah, Teachers Federation, Member
Asmahan, Khudair, Woman Affairs, Textile Trade Unions Adil
Aljabiri, Oil Workers Trade Union Executive Bureau Member
Muhi Abdalhussien, Nadia Flaih, Service Employees Trade Unions
Rawneq Mohammed, Member, Media and Print Shop Trade Union
Abdlakareem Abdalsada, Vice President (GFWCUI)
Saeed Nima, Vice President (GFWCUI)
Sabri Abdalkareem, Member, (GFWCUI) Babil
Amjad Aljawhary, Representative of GFWCUI in North America

May Day in London: here. And here.

May Day photos: here.

May Day in South Korea: here.

May Day in Pakistan: here.

May Day in Colombia: here.

[US] Longshore Workers Commemorate Bloody Thursday [of 1934]: here.

10 thoughts on “May Day today in Iraq, USA, etc. for workers, against war

  1. Hi Kitty, The rally was a little smaller than hoped for. The ILWU did not have as much support from other unions as hoped for. Still the action itself was very exciting. It has been a long, long time since labor did something like this. Relatively few young people were present at the rally, I think because they have no idea what labor is capable of. Still, it was good to be there.


  2. Hi Jon, thanks for the report. I hope this strike action will start a chain reaction to stop the war. That port workers in Iraq, where it is really dangerous to go on strike, participated was also very important.



    From protest to resistance
    West Coast ports shut on May Day

    By Clarence Thomas
    Published May 5, 2008 9:19 PM

    The writer is a Local 10, ILWU Executive Board member; Co-chair, Port Workers’ May Day Organizing Committee and National Co-chair, Million Worker March Movement.

    The International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU), known for its militant and democratic traditions as well as its economic and social justice activism, has written a new chapter in its glorious labor history by shutting down all 29 ports on the West Coast for eight hours on May Day.

    This historic and courageous action on the part of the ILWU came about as the result of a “No Peace No Work Holiday” resolution adopted by the Longshore Division Caucus, its highest ruling body, in February. The caucus passed this resolution by an overwhelming majority of the 100 longshore delegates representing all locals on the West Coast.

    This resolution demanded “an immediate end to the war and occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan and the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the Middle East.” It also asked the AFL-CIO and Change to Win for “an urgent appeal for unity and action” to end the war. The resolution further included a request for a May 1 coastwide stop-work union meeting to accommodate the closure of the ports. Contractually, the ILWU is entitled to one stop-work meeting a month to address union business.
    Clarence Thomas and Jack Heyman,ILWU Local 10 Executive Boardmembers.

    Clarence Thomas and Jack Heyman,
    ILWU Local 10 Executive Board

    The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), which represents shippers, stevedoring companies and terminal operators, and negotiates labor contracts on their behalf, denied the request for a coastwide union meeting for May 1. Such requests have been honored in the past with advance notice. (PMA received nearly three months advanced notice and still denied the request.)

    The rank and file proceeded with plans for a stop-work shutdown even though the International leadership withdrew its request to the PMA for the May 1 coastwide meeting.

    PMA then insisted that the union leadership notify its members of the withdrawal of the request for May Day. The PMA even went to an arbitrator to force the union leaders to do this. The arbitrator ruled that the union is obligated to notify members that the union’s request had been withdrawn.
    Cynthia McKinney

    Cynthia McKinney

    None of this pressure weakened the resolve of the rank and file, who organized marches, rallies and other demonstrations in San Francisco and the Pacific Northwest. Union locals continued to prepare for the May Day action.

    In San Francisco, Local 10 members organized the Port Workers’ May Day Organizing Committee, made up of union members, immigrant rights, and anti-war and social justice groups. In the Pacific Northwest, May Day organizing groups were headed up by rank and filers: Gabriel Prawl of Local 19 Executive Board in Seattle; and in Portland Local 8 members Jerry Lawrence, member of the Executive Board, and Debbie Stringfellow.
    Anti-war solidarity from West Coast to Iraq

    There were numerous solidarity statements not just from trade unionists but a wide array of individuals and organizations from around the world in support of ILWU’s unprecedented planned action. The first was called by the National Association of Letter Carriers locals observing two minutes of silence in all carrier stations at 8:15 a.m. on May 1 in solidarity with the ILWU action. Independent port truckers on the West Coast were very active in taking on solidarity actions in support of the ILWU. In the ports of Newark and Elizabeth, N.J., as well as the port of Houston, independent truckers protested against higher gas prices and in support of the ILWU May Day action. In Seattle, students at the University of Seattle, University of Washington, and Seattle Central Community College left their respective campuses to hold their own rallies or join the march and rally of ILWU Local 19.
    Danny Glover

    Danny Glover

    The ILWU action resonated so much in the community that one of the oldest movie theater venues in Oakland, Calif., the Grand Lake, had the following on its marquee for a week leading up to May Day, “WE SALUTE THE LONGSHOREMEN’S MAY DAY STRIKE TO PROTEST THE CRIMINAL OCCUPATION OF IRAQ.” Due to its location near the central city thoroughfare, thousands of people could see the marquee on any given day.

    The most significant solidarity action of all came from Longshoremen in Iraq itself. Members of the Port Workers Union of Iraq shut down the Ports of Umn Qasr and Khor Alzubair for one hour on May Day in solidarity with the shutdown of all West Coast ports by members of the ILWU in opposition to the occupation of Iraq. This action was taken in defiance of the Ba’athist legislation of 1987, which banned trade unions in the public sector and public enterprise.

    The General Union of Port Workers in Iraq sent this message to the ILWU, “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 well.”
    Oakland, Calif., theater displayedanti-war message several daysbefore May Day.

    Oakland, Calif., theater displayed
    anti-war message several days
    before May Day.
    Photo: Steve Zeltzer

    There was a second solidarity message received from the Iraqi Labor Movement, a broad cross section of union leaders from many different unions and labor federations in Iraq. The message read in part, “On this day of international labor solidarity we call on our fellow trade unionists and all those worldwide who have stood against war and occupation to increase support for our struggle for freedom from occupation–both military and economic.”

    Jack Heyman, Local 10 Executive Board member and Co-Chair Port Workers May Day Organizing Committee was interviewed by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! on May 2 about the significance of the May Day action. He responded to several of her questions in the following way: “We’re really proud here on the West Coast as longshoremen. The ILWU is making a stand because it’s part of our legacy, really for standing up on principled issues.

    “This is the first stop work-work stoppage ever where workers were withholding their labor and demanding an end to the war and the immediate withdrawal of the troops. Not only did we defy the arbitrator, but in a certain sense we defied our own union officials. The union officials did not want to have the actions we organized up and down the coast despite the arbitrator’s decision. Simply, we don’t take our orders from the arbitrator–we don’t take it from judges. The rank and file goes out and does what it has to do.

    “We did that in 1984 during our struggle against apartheid when a ship came in from South Africa. We, Local 10 members, refused to work that ship for 10 days. That was in defiance of what the arbitrator said and what our union officials were telling us. So, we’ve got strong traditions in the ILWU, rank-and-file democracy where we implement what we decide in a democratic fashion.”

    In San Francisco, more than a thousand people marched from Local 10’s union hall, led by the Local 10 Drill Team, along the Embarcadero where the 1934 Big Strike took place to a noon rally at Justin Herman Plaza. Actor-activist Danny Glover; Cynthia McKinney, former congresswoman from Georgia; Cindy Sheehan, whose son was killed in Iraq; and many others spoke to the crowd.

    Local 10 was the local of the legendary labor leader and founding member of the ILWU, Harry Bridges. Local 10 initiated the Million Worker March (MWM), which took place on Oct. 17, 2004, at the Lincoln Memorial. The MWM movement calls upon the rank and file of the labor movement, organized and unorganized, to wage a fight-back movement for the working class. One of the aims of the MWM following the 2004 mobilization was to reclaim May Day by reclaiming our proud history of struggle and social gains which International Workers’ Day stands for.

    Rallies, marches and resolutions all play an important role in terms of organizing, but the ILWU’s May Day action of shutting down all 29 ports on the West Coast is an example of how workers can exercise their power in the workplace and move from protest to resistance.
    Articles copyright 1995-2008 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.



    Todd Chretien and Adrienne Johnstone report from the Bay Area, where dockworkers shut down the port on May Day to protest the war.

    May 2, 2008

    ILWU Local 10 members on the march during a May Day work stoppage to protest the war (Todd Chretien | SW)

    SAN FRANCISCO–Tens of thousands of West Coast dockworkers protested the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by refusing to work on May Day.

    Despite threats from the bosses of the Pacific Maritime Association and a decision by an arbitrator that the union couldn’t officially schedule its monthly stop-work meeting (which allows the union to call a meeting during a normal shift), rank-and-file workers didn’t show up to work, paralyzing billions of dollars worth of cargo up and down the coast.

    “Longshore workers are not slaves,” International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 10 executive board member Clarence Thomas told Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! “They can’t make us work.”

    Dockworkers organized actions in almost 30 ports along the coast, from Washington to San Diego, and their protest coincided with demonstrations by tens of thousands of people around the country who marched and rallied on May 1, International Workers’ Day, to support immigrant rights.

    The ILWU action had solidarity from around the world, including in Iraq itself–dockworkers shut down the crucial port of Basra for several hours in support of the West Coast work stoppage. On the other side of the U.S., in New Jersey, port truckers protested. In Britain, a member of parliament introduced a resolution of support for the ILWU.

    “It’s really important that the ILWU is showing solidarity with all the working people. Workers all over the world know about this,” said Allen Bradley, who spoke at the march on behalf of himself and other members of the Freightliner Five, UAW members from Cleveland, N.C., who were unjustly fired from their jobs at their truck plant. “The ILWU stood up today, and I’m glad about it.”

    The ILWU action got support from local port truckers as well as antiwar activists. According to Robert Irminger, vice chair of the Inland Boatman’s Union for the San Francisco Region, “This morning, about 50 of us went down to the docks with Direct Action to Stop the War and picketed the Union Pacific rail yard. We blocked two gates, and the rail workers held up work for about two hours.”

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    ILWU MEMBERS have participated in antiwar protests before, but this was the first large-scale work action by them or any group of union workers in opposition to the war in Iraq. As ILWU Local 34 President Richard Cavalli told a crowd of nearly 1,000 workers and antiwar activists, “George Bush’s daughters get married in the White House, and our sons and daughters get buried in Iraq.”

    The ILWU, a multiracial union with a high percentage of Black workers, has long been the target of right-wing politicians and corporations bent on breaking the power of organized labor on the docks, a chokepoint for the globalized economy.

    Recently, the Department of Homeland Security tried to impose new background checks that threaten the jobs of many workers, justifying these moves with rhetoric about fighting the “war on terror.” But ILWU members also made a connection between these attacks and the war.

    As ILWU Local 10 business agent Trent Willis told the rally, “It doesn’t matter if you’re a dockworker, a school teacher or a garbage worker–an injury to one is an injury to all. The people who are going to end this war are working people.”

    The work stoppage was the first of several May Day activities in the Bay Area making the link between workers rights and immigrant rights. Local marches took place later in the day in Oakland, San Francisco, Santa Rosa, San Jose and Santa Cruz.

    Antiwar activist and independent congressional candidate Cindy Sheehan, who is challenging Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in November, made the connection, as well. “We have to hurt them in the pocketbooks,” Sheehan said, “because they’ll never be hurt like my family was, like Iraqi families, like families that have to come across the border.”



    WBAI Radio’s Building Bridges: Your Community & Labor Report
    Produced & Hosted by Mimi Rosenberg & Ken Nash
    Monday, May 5, 2008, 7 – 8 p.m. EST, over 99.5 FM or streaming live at

    West Coast Dockers Shut Down Ports As Workers Say No To War with:
    Clarence Thomas, Ex. Board member, Local 10 ILWU
    Danny Glover, Actor & Human Rights Activist
    Cynthia McKinney, Former Congresswoman and Presidential Candidate and
    Cindy Sheehan, Anti-War Activist, Candidate for Congress

    Tens of thousands of docks, members of the International Longshore & Warehouse Union shut down the west coast ports in a protest against the war. While an arbitrators decision prevented the ILWU from officially sponsoring the strike, its members turned out en masse. The stand-down at ports including Los Angeles and Long Beach, which handle 40% of the imported goods arriving in the United States each year idled ships and halted movement of about 10,000 containers during the eight-hour stoppage.

    Listen at:



    [Emphasis Added]

    ILWU’s Unprecedented Display of Labor Muscle for the Peace Movement
    Lawrence J. Maushard – May 2, 2008, posted at Portland Indymedia

    An unprecedented display of labor muscle pumped up the peace movement yesterday when an estimated 25,000 union longshore workers took May Day off for an antiwar shutdown of all West Coast ports, including the ports of Portland and Vancouver.

    The protest by International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) longshore workers momentarily froze the vibrant Pacific rim trade – autos, appliances, manufactured goods, foodstuffs and more – in a rare coordinated display by a major American union fed up with the US war in Iraq and the trillions of dollars spent in that effort.

    “It’s a war that started with a lie. If I went to the courts and told a lie, they’d lock me up,” Jerry Lawrence, 59, of Portland, a rank-and-file union member said on May Day. “Now why the hell didn’t they lock Bush up or kick him outta office? I blame my senators for not stepping up.”

    The 27-year longshoreman with ILWU Portland Local 8 was attending a union-sponsored mid-day riverside ceremony on the East Bank Esplanade just north of the Burnside Bridge to mark the union’s antiwar stance. About 150 union and peace supporters crowded on the narrow floating docks to hear a few speeches and drop more than 800 yellow carnations in the Willamette river in solemn remembrance of the US deaths in Iraq (one flower for each 5 dead American soldiers now totaling about 4,050).

    The ILWU May Day stand-downs from San Diego to Seattle resulted from a union caucus delegate vote of 97-3 back in February for a resolution to do an 8-hour stop-work dayshift meeting on May 1 to protest the Iraq war.

    The resolution called for the immediate and safe return of U.S. troops. Organizers hoped to use the contract stop-work actions, which means longshore workers show up only for a mandatory closed-door union meeting but don’t work, to carry out the Iraq war protest.

    However, the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), charged with negotiating and administering maritime labor agreements with the ILWU, blocked those dayshift May Day stop-work sessions after the ILWU requested them.

    Just a few weeks ago, Local 8’s chief executive officer Bruce Holte confirmed that the May Day stop-work meeting in Portland indeed was “off.”

    Asked on May 1 what had changed, Holte explained, “A lot of things have happened. First of all, yesterday morning (April 30), we lost an arbitration that we were ordered to go to work today. We respect the arbitrator and we respect his ruling. But after that we went into Federal Court. The PMA tried to do a temporary restraining order on us; we prevailed in that. So when we prevailed in that, we won that decision. Last night the decision was made by the coast (headquarters) that we were going to go out.”

    No matter what the contract or the courts decided, the West Coast ports shutdown was apparently already a done deal. “I’ll just tell you on the record,” Holte said, “that Local 8, the rank and file of Local 8, not the officers, had made the decision they weren’t going to work today no matter what.”

    Lawrence confirmed that assertion. “We, the rank and file, says yes. We (were) going to do this regardless.”

    Veterans for Peace and PDX Peace also attended the union’s May Day riverside ceremony. Although loud cheers briefly erupted when the West Coast ports shutdowns were announced, the riverfront union antiwar event was different than most similar local actions. There appeared to be far fewer young and student attendees than those of middle and senior age.

    The sentiments of the elder attendees, however, matched those of any 20-something anarchist. “I’m mad as hell about the war, what’s it’s doing to Iraq and the US,” Peter Parks, 64, an event organizer and Local 8 member for 8 years, said on the Esplanade when asked for comment. As to whether the ILWU’s antiwar actions may lead to similar activities by other unions, Parks responded, “I hope so. I hope this stops the war.”

    Though the ILWU’s antiwar May Day stand down looks to be the first coordinated peace action by a major American union since the start of the Iraq War in March 2003, historians with a longer view say there’s nothing really surprising here.

    “The unions are not just about economic issues,” says Craig Woolner, associate Dean of the College of Urban and Public Affairs at PSU. “They are about the concerns of working people in general, and about concerns of their members beyond simple economic justice. There’s a long history of involvement by unions in issues beyond their immediate job concerns.”


    CUNY Graduate Center Advocate, May 2008

    CUNY Rallies in Solidarity With Striking Dock Workers
    May Day strikes shut down west coast ports for eight hours

    [Click for full-size image]
    CUNY doctoral student Carl Lindskoog speaks at the ILWU anti-war rally.

    Students and faculty at campuses across CUNY gathered on Thursday May 1 in solidarity with the west coast longshore workers union ILWU, whose unprecedented eight hour international strike against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan shut down west coast ports from San Diego to Seattle and Vancouver.

    At Hunter College, the Hunter chapter of The PSC-CUNY organized a speak out and teach-in outside the West Building to show support and solidarity for the striking dock workers and to celebrate May Day and the gains made by labor unions across the globe.

    In addition to the Hunter College rally, students and faculty at other CUNY campuses, including Hostos Community College, Bronx Community College, and Queens College, also came out in support of what was the first real labor action against the US occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Responding to the historic nature of the event, Sandor John, one of the organizers of the May Day Rally at Hunter College said, “the longshore shutdown points to the need and potential for workers’ strikes against the war. This is an exciting and enormously important development that could make history.” John also noted that although Hunter refused to authorize a sound permit for the rally, as many as 120 students participated in the event adding that it might have been even larger had the police presence been more moderate. “The offensive presence of at least two dozen NYPD and CUNY police, and the fact that you had to go through a barricade to get into the rally, did deter some from joining, but at the high point at least 70 people were crowded into the barricaded area that the cops set up,” said John in an official statement on the rally.

    Speakers at the Hunter College rally included a number of professors, activists and labor organizers, including Sandor John and Marcia Newfield of the Professional Staff Congress union; Bill Bachman of New York Metro Area Postal Union — which came out in solidarity with the ILWU; Professors Steve Gorlick, Tom Angotti, and Ida Susser; and DSC Adjunct Project Coordinator Carl Lindskoog. According to organizers, “Lindskoog received loud applause and whoops of agreement when he said we don’t oppose this war because it ‘costs too much’ to kill Iraqis and Afghanis, but because it is a war of conquest, pillage, and plunder. Carl also gave the nitty-gritty lowdown on the conditions and struggles of CUNY adjuncts, ending with a rousing appeal to learn from the dock workers’ example and not be intimidated by anti-labor laws like the Taylor Law. ‘Just like the war won’t be ended by endless marches, but only by using our power, CUNY won’t give in just because we’re right. The dock workers shut it down, and we need to do that too,’ he said.”

    Reports form the docks confirmed that more than 25,000 union members had gone on strike and, despite reported efforts by the SSA company (a major shipper of war material) to organize scabbing, no cargo was unloaded and the cranes usually used to unload shipping containers sat motionless for the entire eight hours of the strike. Meanwhile ILWU members took to the streets of San Francisco to protest war and celebrate May Day.

    The International Longshore and Warehouse Union or ILWU, formed after the 1934 West Coast Longshoreman strike, is one of the most militant and active unions working today. The union has a long history of labor activism and has historically opposed war and imperialism, coming out against the wars in Korea, Vietnam, and the first Iraq War. More recently, ILWU workers [CORRECTION: Should read South African dockers, not ILWU] refused to unload cargo from a vessel carrying military supplies from China to autocratic Zimbabwe.


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