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Protestors Occupy Ports in Oakland and Beyond

Judith Scherr
Inter Press Service / News Report
Published: Wednesday 14 December 2011
To prevent port workers from on and off loading ships, an arbitrator had to certify the picket line was a health and safety issue for the workers.
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Occupy movements in Oakland, California; Portland, Oregon; and Longview, Washington claimed victory Monday when they prevented workers from loading or unloading ships at the three ports.

"We shut it down, people, we shut it down," Anthony Leviege, International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) member, told the cheering crowd at Oakland's Berth 55, just before 10 a.m. local time.

"I'm impressed that so many people got up at 5 o'clock in the morning... We can't stop here."

About 800 people showed up for the pre-dawn action in near-freezing weather, chanting, "Whose port? Our port!" and holding placards that called for "Solidarity With Longshoremen Against the One Percent" and "Cerremos Wall Street del Puerto".

The protests, stretching from San Diego to Anchorage, Alaska, aimed at the control of the terminals by those whom the Occupy Movement has dubbed the "one percenters", especially Goldman Sachs, primary investor in terminal operator SSA Marine.

The port action was just the latest in the tactics of the nimble Occupy Movement that, in Oakland, began with tent camps, twice destroyed by police. Last week it changed course and occupied foreclosed homes and on Monday, it rallied supporters to shut down work at the port.

"What is amazing about this movement is that it refuses to be dismantled," said activist and retired university professor Angela Davis, speaking at an afternoon rally in downtown Oakland before the second wave of picketers left for the port.

"The occupy movement has had its tents destroyed, has had its encampments dismantled," Davis said, adding that the police and corporations believed the movement would die when the camps were crushed, but "from those ashes, the occupy movement has risen once again, like a phoenix rises."

To prevent port workers from on and off loading ships, an arbitrator had to certify the picket line was a health and safety issue for the workers.

Although the determination was made in the morning for both morning and evening shifts, a crowd estimated in the thousands and led by Scott Olson, the young Iraq War veteran hit in the head with a police projectile in Oakland on Nov. 2, marched back to the port in the late afternoon to renew the picket and celebrate victory.

They stayed the night and ended up blocking the 3 a.m. shift at the port, according to KPFA radio.

Controversial closure

The decision to shut down the port, however, was controversial both inside and outside the Occupy Movement, even though targeting Goldman Sachs and its role at the port was not in dispute among occupiers.

"Goldman executives can take credit for many of the financial crises of the last decade, including insider trading, fraud, credit default swaps, and subprime mortgages," wrote Michael Siegel, attorney and Occupy Oakland activist.

Still, most unions sat out the port blockade, neither condemning nor supporting it.

The Oakland Education Association did, however, strongly endorse the action, with Betty Olson-Jones, OEA president, directly linking port operations to Oakland school needs.

Private maritime businesses in the Port of Oakland "use rent-free public land [that] generates 27 billion dollars annually in trade", Olson-Jones said. She suggested that taxing them one percent would be enough to pay off Oakland school debt, restore full library services and rehire ever laid off library worker.

While some longshore workers were prominent individually in organizing the port shutdown, union leadership opposed it. Much of the controversy centered on a labor dispute between the ILWU and Export Grain Terminal (EGT) in Longview, Washington.

Both the West Coast Occupy movements and the ILWU say that EGT broke a promise to hire ILWU workers, and both want the pledge fulfilled.

Meanwhile, an EGT company spokesman said the company tried to negotiate an agreement with ILWU, but that the union wanted a pension plan that was too expensive, reported the New York Times.

When the Occupy Movement began organizing against EGT without the ILWU's blessing, ILWU President Robert McEllrath reacted, telling the Occupy Movement to stay out of the conflict.

The ILWU's fight for democracy "is the hard-won right to chart our own course to victory", he wrote, warning that the union doesn't want outsiders to adopt the struggle as their own, given the danger that they might do so "in order to advance a broader agenda… destructive to our democratic process and [one that] jeopardizes our over two year struggle in Longview".

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan pleaded with Occupy Oakland not to persist with the shutdown.

"The Port of Oakland is not the home of the one percent," he wrote. "Rather, it generates over 73,000 jobs in the region and is connected to more than 800,000 jobs across the country. It is one of the best sources of good paying blue-collar jobs left in our city."

The port commission wrote that the shutdown would "hurt working people and harm our community". Even some within Occupy Oakland expressed concern that independent truckers would lose a day's pay. During the morning picket at Berth 55, Alameda County sheriffs tried crossing the picket line twice to take a bus into the port area. Blocked the first time by pickets, sheriffs turned the bus around and returned on foot, using batons to force their way through the picket line and line up between protesters and port property. No one was hurt or arrested.

The second time the sheriffs attempted to drive into the port area, four or five picketers with bicycles stood ground directly before the bus, which soon left the area.

Protests in other cities

From Portland, organizer Tomas Bernal said in a phone interview that the 300-400 protesters there also succeeded in shutting down the port in the morning. "It's quite historic – with only two and a half weeks to prepare," he said.

The Portland terminals were also shut down in the evening, Jamie Partridge, another Portland activist, told IPS in an email.

In Longview, where the EGT terminal is located, about 100 protesters arrived at the port's main entrance. Workers were reportedly sent home due to safety concerns.

But in Vancouver, Long Beach and San Diego, protesters were unable to stop work at the port, while in Seattle police reportedly used flash-bang grenades and pepper-sprayed demonstrators, blocking one of the terminal entrances and arresting 11.

The Seattle Times reported that organizers claimed victory because the workers at two terminals didn't come to work. The port, however, sent out a press release saying the protest had minimal impact.

Don't allow the brutal

Don't allow the brutal assaults to be forgotten. Display your outrage. Make Pike's name synonymous with pepper spray. Log onto:

Codepink Women for Peace

Codepink Women for Peace participated in the Port Shutdown, but felt bad about truckers losing pay due to the shutdown, so we collected donations at the shutdown actions for the truckers. We will distribute the money to truckers who didn't work and need the money. If anyone reading knows a trucker fitting that description, or how to contact the truckers, please write to me at Thank you.

The Port most certainly DOES

The Port most certainly DOES NOT BELONG to the companies who use it! It belongs to the citizens of California. The Port collects rent from the companies who are doing business there. The Port does not belong to those companies.



Seriously, we do appreciate your work.
However, nothing is really improving.

We the people…are dying out here!
We first lost our jobs, then our savings, and now are losing our homes.
We cannot feed our families and keep them healthy and safe.
We have been hurt enough. Dialog, debate, discussion, compromise, education, peaceful protesting, and even voting, has NOT worked.

Sorry The Nation, as insightful as you are, we tired of just “reading” about the problems and waiting for Obama to wake up, or get some balls (duh).

Wall Street, the 1%, the Tea Party, and corporate fat cats have become a gang of bullies.
Their unlimited cash buys votes, corrupts, and overpowers any positive initiative.
You can never appease bullies. They want more, and more, and finally…everything.
You have to hurt a bully back…badly, so he fears YOU!

C’mon Americans, OWS, the 99%, middle class, and forgotten’s time to get mean dog fighting mad! Passivity is NOT working! Are we sheep? Are we going to let these bullies continue to hurt our families? Are we supposed to just lie down and die?
Hell no! (Not loud enough) HELL NO!

So, Fox News, Wall Street, fat cats, right wing nuts…we will take your advice to develop clear demands, strategies, and new battle tactics against your continuing class warfare.
Are we still obscure?



Gina, Yes, closing a port for

Yes, closing a port for a day means lost revenue, and small businesses like independent truckers lose money. There are costs to open nonviolent protest, and that's why it's not something that's common. The rest of what you're saying sounds just like what every management negotiator I've ever heard says every time a contract comes up: "Don't just throw your muscle around for the heck of it...(to the workers): They don't care about you, the manicurists control your union--we have a union you can join where they care about you...Costs are just too high--you'll drive us out of business to the next state/province/country where wages are cheaper...This isn't your business, remember, you just did the work that paid to build it, maintain it, pay my salary....oops.

I know you're not too keen on anything #OWS does, but I wonder--how do you really feel about unions?

Occupying a port and shutting

Occupying a port and shutting it down during union negotiations means the port loses money at a critical time. Less money in the pot for the workers, less bargaining power. Shutting down a port means shutting down jobs. Nothing else. The head of a union has to know how to work within the parameters of what is best for workers and what will achieve the best end result, not just bully and oppress those who just wanted to go to work that day. The unions don't want their concerns becoming entangled with the objectives of the Occupy movement. They are not mutual. Making working here commercially unviable just results in jobs being exported out of America. Many, many unions have manuvered themselves into extinction by not understanding they are negotiating, not setting demands like hostage-takers. This is NOT the people's port, it belongs to the companies who use it.

Reply to Gina Panettieri You

Reply to Gina Panettieri

You must be a corporate shill.

As for the port authorities,

As for the port authorities, of course they are going to say that, as for the British Columbia pickets, they were information pickets only. The President of the ILWU should apoligise for his remarks and resign so he can be replaced by someone with a functioning brain. Does he really not understand the tactical and stratigic value of the Occupy support his Union recieved? Does he not understand the God given opportunity here? Oh well...and yes, I am a Union supporter.

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