Labor and Occupy Movement Need Solidarity Over Occupy Ports.
- Occupy Ports Meeting In Long Beach, Labor And Occupy Solidarity Needed
December 11th, 2011
I went to the Occupy the Ports meeting in Long Beach this evening. It didn't last long, maybe 45 minutes. Michael Novik and a couple of other persons from Occupy LA came down to Long Beach and stated what Novik implied was the correct approach. He handed out copies of his newspaper "Turning The Tide," There is going to be a third party picket line in front of SSA Marine which is partially owned by Goldman Sachs in front of their Long Beach facility. People were asked if they wanted to play peacekeeper, there was some discussion of whether people would be turned into the cops. Several persons from the Freedom Socialist Party, and the IWW expressed concerns about turning people over to the police. It was generally agreed agent provocateurs were the category that might be turned over, but then that would be turning an undercover cop over to the cops, interesting concept. Mostly many of us were concerned that direct action people would be ratted on by the pacifists, what remains unclear is what they are willing to do in that regard. Not many people wanted the peace keeper job. This reflects a dispute over the position regarding the police. Some in the Occupy movement see them as fellow 99%ers, others see them as enforcers for the 1%. Depending on your position, will have much to do with how you interact with the police.
People will meet at 4:30 AM at Lincoln Park, and then drive or take the bus to Harry Bridges Park. There is parking in the Queen Mary Lot for $12 a day. The picket will start from Harry Bridges Park, across from the Queen Mary at 5 Am Monday the 12th of December. They will march from the park down the road to the terminal approx. a mile or so. They will not enter the port as they don't want to deal with Homeland Security. The Union arbiters may decide to halt operations if they decide there is a hazard or a risk of an accident, which is what happened when the port was closed in Oakland back on Nov. 3. Many of the LA people will be leaving after 9 AM to go to an Immigrants Rights March in Los Angeles, so even if there is success in blocking the port, the action will be of limited duration to one shift unless other activists decide to stay and continue to picket. If enough persons show up other facilities will be picketed including Port of Los Angeles terminals.
Although I support the action in principal I am concerned about the relationship between the dock workers and the Occupy movement. If this is seen as interference in union and dockworker affairs then this action will not benefit the workers or the people. If it helps build solidarity between the workers and the union, then I can see this a a positive step. The Occupy movement is seeking new ways to enable people to affect the way the country runs. For those of us who are anti-capitalist, it means finding ways to stop capitalism in its tracks and empowering the working classes. Since not all Occupy movement people are anti-capitalist, there is a question about where a move like Occupy the Ports is headed and what it is attempting to do. Michael Novik clams this action is meant to be a prelude to a General Strike on May Day. If that is the case then there needs to be real and massive solidarity with workers from across the broad face of labor. In a country with only some 8% of the private sector workers unionized, the ILWU is a precious commodity, one of those rare private sector unions, and one in a choke point of industrial capitalism. We need then on our side and we need to be on the same side as they are. For the sake of our freedom as people, for our ability to self-govern and for economic democracy, we need to be working with labor, not against it and since this occupation is, at least in Long Beach a mostly symbolic action, not planned to really shut down the port, I would hope we are participating as worthy allies of labor and not as a nuisance. Certainly it will be good for the Occupy movement to participate in labor actions, and there are problems with unions, they are constrained by the restrictive American Labor laws that would make them liable to lawsuits if they officially supported this action. Therefore we must make it clear that we as the Occupy movement are acting in solidarity with the rank and file dock workers. It is critical that the workers see it this way. Using the dockworkers to build for a General Strike may backfire if no workers join the general strike because it is seen as an opportunistic action to gain media attention for the Occupy movement. There is a fine line between pushing the process forward, and adventurism. We must be careful in how we walk and not be arrogant in our assumptions. We cannot will a general strike into existence, and if we call a couple of blockades and picket lines a strike, well then we are just fooling ourselves. A real general strike involves the working classes, with or without the leadership, but the mass of the workers have to be for it, or it simply won't happen. Calling a picket, a port shut down, is perhaps a bit of wishful thinking, and to the extent that it happens it is good practice if the workers refuse to cross the picket. If there are thousands of people who show up and the ports are forced to shut down, then we will have shown that there is power in the people and the people are with the occupy movement.
In an earlier post about conditions at the ports I had stated that Los Angeles had a driver employee mandate that would force companies to hire drivers as employees, this would allow the drivers to join the Teamsters. As things stand the drivers are independent contractors and must bear the cost of meeting new environmental mandates at the ports themselves. The 9th District court struck down the driver employee mandate, and now Los Angeles port drivers will remain independent contractors as they are in Long Beach. This is a blow to unionization drives because independent contractors cannot unionize by law.
See Journal of Commerce for more info.