Thursday, April 7, 2011

2011-04-07 "Why were ILWU Local 10 Representatives Banned From Speaking On April 4, 2011 Rallies In Oakland and San Francisco?" by Steve Zeltzer
One of the most important unions in the country is the ILWU with 60,000 members on the west coast and Hawaii. It has a militant democratic tradition since the days it was formed in 1934 when it threw off the corrupt bureaucracy of the ILA on the east coast. The fact that this union was formed in the midst of general strikes and class struggle and has retained this history has always been an irritation for the bosses and their corporate media. Harry Bridges, who was born in Australia was put on trial starting in 1939 to deport him from the country for not admitting that he was a member of the Communist Party. Despite five trials this failed and the government and bosses attempt failed to break the back of the ILWU as they did to many other unions during the 1950's witch hunts. It remains the only militant democratic union, with substantial power on the job in the United States and a history of direct working class action from stopping steel going to Japan before World War 2, to boycotting cargo from apartheid South Africa, taking work action on all ports against the wars in Iraq/Afghanistan, for Mumia Abu Jamal, against the murder of Oscar Grant, a young Black union member and refusing to work a Zim ship from Israel to protest the killing of 9 aid workers by Israeli apartheid troops.
Many of these actions have taken place by ILWU Local 10 in San Francisco which was Harry Bridge's home local and still has a very democratic tradition with a two year terms for all officials and a yearly election for all officers. These rules mean that the rank and file is very close to control and power of the local. When the national action on April 4, 2011 of no business as usual was proposed, the Local 10 membership backed it and members refused to work in solidarity with the Wisconsin workers and against the attacks on the working class. It has an active rank and file that makes it democratic and implements democracy in practice. It was the only local in the entire country that had a job action.
This action was the only direct workers action in solidarity with the Wisconsin workers and it was greeted by cheers and when it was announced to thousands of workers in St. Paul, Minnesota who were also rallying. In fact at the rallies in Oakland and San Francisco rallies this was announced from the platforms by Stephanie Bloomingdale, Secretary-Treasurer of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO but surprisingly no ILWU Local 10 or any representatives from the ILWU were allowed to speak. She later apologized to Clarence Thomas and the ILWU for the failure of the Alameda Labor Council to have them on the platform.
At the same time, politicians such as Oakland Mayor Jean Quan in Oakland was invited to speak and was roundly booed by the workers present when she told the workers there would be more layoffs. "We will have layoffs, but they will come as part of collective bargaining" said Quan.
Alameda Labor Council executive director Josie Camacho angrily chastised the workers from booing Quan telling them that "I grew up in a family where you treat people with respect and respect them when they're talking." Apparently that did not apply to respecting ILWU Local 10's right to speak who were also actually members of the Alameda Labor Council.
At the San Francisco rally and march as well no ILWU Local 10 representatives were invited to speak due to "scheduling" problems. At the same time, the president of the Police Officers Association POA Gary Delagnes was invited to speak by Bob Muscat of IFPTE Local 21 and chair of the Public Workers Committee of the San Francisco Labor Council. The POA is not even a member of the San Francisco Labor Council but apparently they have special speaking rights over unions whose members actually are taking direct action in solidarity with Wisconsin workers. One rule, ILWU Local 10 has is that police are not allowed to be members of the Local. They have first hand experience experience with the role of the San Francisco police when two strikers in San Francisco were murdered by the police in 1934 and even today their members are targeted by police such as members Jason Ruffin and Aaron Harrison in Sacramento who were roughed up and arrested by the police. Additionally in 2003, ILWU Local 10 and Local 34 longshoremen and anti-war protesters were shot at by Oakland riot police at the behest of past Mayor Jerry Brown and the Maritime bosses.
This in fact may have been the reason that the ILWU Local 10 was not welcome to speak at the events. They have organized not only for direct action on the job but for independent worker protests that the Democratic party and their supporters want nothing to do with. These officials do not want any criticism of the Democratic party. This is also not the first time that bay area union officials have tried to silence or control who would speak for the ILWU Local 10. In 2008, past Alameda Labor Council secretary-treasurer who is now on the national staff of Trumka and the AFL-CIO told anti-war organizers that ILWU leaders Jack Heyman, Clarence Thomas and Trent Willis could not speak at the rallies and instead ILWU Local 10 had to get other speakers. This effort to censor and stifle was defeated when a public campaign took place to demand that Sharon Cornu allow the ILWU Local 10 to speak and allow them to decide who would represent the local. ILWU Local 10 as well as all ILWU locals on the west coast shutdown all ports on May Day 2008 against the war in direct worker actions against the imperial wars and more of this kind of action is needed if working people in this country are going to stop this Republicrat war.
The rallies on April 4, 2011 in the bay area as well as nationally focused on the slogan "We Are One" and fight for the "Middle Class". At the bay area rallies while calling for more taxes on the banks the word capitalism and class struggle was missing. It is as if there are just bad Republicans and this is not the nature of capitalism and class struggle. The publicity campaign to make the a movement for the "middle class" and not the working class is part of the effort to deny that there is a class divide in this country between the working class and the capitalist class.
Another important element that was left out of the AFL-CIO's day of action was the particular attack on Black and Latino workers in the attack on public workers. Black and Latino workers over decades have won decent paying union jobs with benefits and these jobs are under direct attack by both the Republicans and Democrats. The Democrats in fact along with most public workers union officials are proud of the fact that they have made and continue to make one concession after another to "share the pain". This ideology that the working class should "share the pain" with the billionaires and union busters is of course not the the ideology of fighting the capitalists in the class struggle but agreement that one of the ways to solve the crisis is for more economic concessions by the working class.
Clarence Thomas, former Secretary Treasurer of the ILWU Local 10 and also on the Executive Board raised these and other issues on a revealing and honest interview of KPFA on April 5, 2011. When mentioning the slight by the leadership of the Alameda and San Francisco Labor Councils in excluding the ILWU Local 10 he pointed out that a reason for this was the relationship between this leadership and their concern not to embarrass the Democratic Party. Thomas in his KPFA interview pointed out that this alliance with the Democratic party was in fact harming the fightback against the very attacks that labor is facing and that there needed to be more direct action by workers in this country to defend labor. The ILWU was also one of the founding members of the Labor Party and attended it's founding convention in 1995.
This is a message obviously that some in the trade union officialdom do not want to hear. At the Oakland rally a speaker from the IBEW said it was time for a general strike and won a rousing cheer from many workers at the rally. Even Liz Shuler Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO mentioned at a labor meeting in Berkeley the next day that workers in Northern California were supportive of a general strike but it had to be "organized and have support of the community".
Thomas was was also asked not to speak on the KPFA Morning Mix show by the CWA Local 9415 officials because of a "boycott" of the KPFA Morning Mix show. He ignored the request and decided it was more important to take up the issue of what is happening in the labor movement on KPFA than agree to a "boycott" that even union members of the Local's chapter are ignoring.
Ken Riley, president of ILA Local 1422 in Charleston, South Carolina in the Huffington Post and in radio interviews has also called for organizing for general strike actions against the union busting tactics taking place throughout the country. This union busting campaign has been answered by the AFL-CIO and most unions with concession bargaining.
In San Francisco, Tim Paulson, Executive Director of the San Francisco Labor Council and chair of the Labor Caucus of the California Democratic Party also personally told Trent Willis, past president of ILWU Local 10 and Clarence Thomas of Local 10 that on April 4 they would not be allowed to speak at the san Francisco rally. The same Labor Council had previously passed a resolution for a militant fight back including "to support such action by engaging, whenever possible, in work stoppages, sick-outs and any other solidarity action"
So the one group of workers in the United States that actually took work action on the job to support the Wisconsin workers and is presently being sued for it by the Pacific Maritime Association PMA is prevented from even speaking a labor rally for solidarity run by the San Francisco Labor Council.
Another striking issue that was off the table was the failure of any of the speakers at both the San Francisco and Oakland rallies to address that attacks on public workers by not only the Republicans but also by labor supported Democratic Governor Jerry Brown and the Democratic controlled legislature. Brown has continued the furlough of State workers initiated by Governor Schwarzenneger including the 192 CA-OSHA inspectors. Brown is also aware that these inspectors who protect California's 17 million workers have their wages paid not by the State but by the Federal government and a tax on Workers Comp premiums. In other words, Brown was and is harming the health and safety of California workers in order to get the union CAPS to agree to contract concessions. These workers are now on forced furloughs harming the health and safety of California workers including State workers and patients at Napa State Hospital who are being raped and murdered due to the lack of staff.
As the 1.5 million public workers in California know, they are are the chopping block and are being blamed by both Republicans and Democrats for this economic crisis yet this is not a issue for discussion and debate within the labor movement because of their structural ties to the Democratic party. This must obviously change and ILWU Local 10 is leading the way in opening up these issues for a broader debate in the labor movement about where we need to go.

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