Longshore workers shut down Bay Area ports on May Day

ILWU Local 10 stops work to protest police brutality.WW photo: Terri Kay

ILWU Local 10 stops work to protest police brutality.
WW photo: Terri Kay

Oakland, Calif., May 1 — Once again the membership of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10 did a remarkable deed when it led U.S. labor on May Day 2015 by voting to shut down all Bay Area ports and march to Oakland City Hall to stand up against police terror. The political focus, at the time of that decision, was the April 4 police killing of Walter Scott in South Carolina. Scott had strong family ties to the International Longshore Association there, and ILWU Local 10 voted to show solidarity with the ILA.

“I put forth the resolution to shut down the port because I am proud of my union’s history of resistance, and I felt it was time labor came out loudly against police terror,” said Stacey Rodgers, the ILWU member who initiated the port action. “We are in an historic moment in our country. Labor has always been part of the historic moments in this country, and we continue that legacy on May Day.”

Then Freddie Grey was killed by the Baltimore police.

Today, International Workers’ Day, the ILWU membership and well over 1,000 community members came out strongly to show their anger about recent police killings and all the cases of police terror. Local 10 and a number of community groups and other unions organized a rally at the Port of Oakland, a march through the Acorn Projects in West Oakland and a rally at Oscar Grant Plaza in front of Oakland City Hall.

At the port, longshore workers spoke out against police terror, including the family of Jeremiah Moore, an autistic man shot by police in Valejo, Calif., on Oct. 20, 2012, and the uncle of Pedie Perez, an unarmed man shot by the Richmond Police Department on Sept. 14.

The ILWU drill team led the march. Marchers carried banners, including one reading, “Justice for Yuvette.” Yuvette Henderson was killed Feb. 3 by Emeryville police. Also, “May Day! Fight for Freddie Gray,” “No execution by medical neglect, Free Mumia Abu-Jamal,” and “Stop police terror, ILWU Local 10.”

Students in the playgrounds of both an elementary school and a high school on the march’s path waved and chanted jubilantly as the protesters passed. Marchers even stopped to teach them chants like, “All night, all day, we will fight for Freddie Grey.”

Cat Brooks, of ONYX and the Anti-Police Terror Project, said in a press release, “The only way this country is going to take us seriously is if we interrupt their commerce and impact their bottom line. Simply appealing to their humanity doesn’t work. If that was the case, the epidemic of Black genocide at the hands of police would have ended decades ago.”

In a message read to the crowd at Oscar Grant Plaza, Clarence Thomas, of Local 10, said, “This mobilization today is beyond protest. It is an act of resistance. Local 10 is shutting down the movement of international cargo. By silencing the cranes at the ports, we, the working class, make our voices heard loudly around the world today. … The supreme task of labor is to challenge corporate America — head on — as part of a new peoples’ movement for all workers and the oppressed in this country.”

Cat Brooks, Stacey Rodgers and Jack Heyman, a retired ILWU member, co-chaired the rally at Oscar Grant Plaza. Other speakers included Chairman Fred Hampton Jr., Uncle Bobby (uncle of Oscar Grant), Jeralynn Blueford (mother of Alan Blueford), mesha Monge-Irizarry (mother of Idriss Stelley), rapper Boots Riley and Judy Greenspan, of Workers World Party.

The organizers included rank-and-file members of Local 10, the Anti-Police Terror Project, ONYX Organizing Committee, the Alan Blueford Center for Justice, Community Ready Corps, Workers World Party, the Love Not Blood Campaign and Answer. Union endorsements included Service Employees Local 1021, the Oakland Education Association, University of California Student-Workers Union (United Auto Workers Local 2865) and the San Francisco Electrical Workers Minority Caucus.