Friday, December 9, 2011

Labor Solidarity to Occupy the Ports

2011-12-09 "Oakland Education Association Supports West Coast Port Shutdown" by Betty Olson-Jones, President of the OEA
Today, I am speaking on behalf of the OEA Representative Council to reiterate our union's support for the 90 plus % of Oaklanders, predominantly working people, who are seeing their standard of living decline due to the cutbacks in both the public and private sector economies of this city, state, and nation.
Our union voted on Monday, December 5, to endorse next week's "blockade" of the
Port of Oakland. The following motion passed overwhelmingly:
"I move that the OEA will endorse the Oakland Port shut-down mobilization on December 12 in solidarity with the Occupy Movement, the Teamsters & drivers at the Port of Oakland, and the ILWU, especially the local in the Bay Area and Local 21 (Longview, Washington) which is under attack. We shall encourage our members to participate outside of regular work hours."
Why did we take this forthright position? From the beginning of the "Occupy" movement, members of OEA have participated in Occupy Oakland events, general assemblies, and committees with a message of solidarity and unity. We helped pay for sanitation at City Hall, and many of our members and retirees have been participants in "Occupy" demonstrations on behalf of the public school teachers and students of Oakland. Hundreds of teachers left their classrooms November 2 to march in solidarity with thousands of other members of the 99%.
Now we are urging our members and the greater East Bay community to help defend the Longshore and Warehouse Union in Longview, Washington, from union-busting. We are asking our members to support port truck drivers who are denied the rights and benefits of regular employees by being classified as "independent contractors," although some drive company trucks, must follow company rules, and work on company schedules.
For almost a decade, the OEA has called on the Port of Oakland to work with the city and school district to supplement the meager state and federal financing of our community's public service and education sectors. We have participated in community pickets at the port to draw attention to the Unit between war abroad and austerity at home. We have advocated that the Port and its commissioners raise revenue from its strategic air and sea locations by taxing airlines such as Southwest, delivery services such as FedEx and UPS, as well as shippers such as Matson to provide sorely needed resources to our public schools, hospitals, libraries, fire stations, and urban infrastructure. Our pleas have fallen on deaf ears.
American President Lines (APL) is based in Oakland. It's the 5th largest shipping company in the world. Private maritime businesses in Oakland, using rent-free public lands, generate at least $27 billion annually in trade. 1% of $27 billion = $270 million: enough to pay off the school debt, restore full city library services and rehire every laid off city worker. 2% = $540 million: enough to do all that, reduce class size and preserve all Alameda County medical facilities!
I visited a school yesterday where teachers serving our most fragile Special Education students told me the district was unable to attract enough Aides to the Handicapped to work in the classrooms, where some of the duties include diapering severely disabled students. Why? One interviewee said he could earn more flipping burgers at MacDonald's; another said she made more on unemployment.
This needs to change. Oakland is not a poor city and the wealth of the 1 % can assist in leveling the playing field for all of our children, young adults, and the 99%.

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