Around the country, the Occupy movement has been attacked by coordinated police action. Thousands have been arrested in an attempt to crush a potentially powerful movement of the 99%. But, the movement is not going down without a fight.
In response to these coordinated attacks, West Coast Occupy groups have called for a coordinated shutdown of all West Coast ports on December 12. Actions are planned in San Diego, Los Angeles , Oakland, Portland, Vancouver, Tacoma, Seattle, and Bellingham, Washington. The Oakland Education Association (teachers' union), rank-and-file members of the longshore and Teamsters unions and even Occupy supporters in Vancouver, British Columbia, Anchorage, Alaska, Houston, and Denver have joined the call to action. Thousands of people will attempt to blockade ports and disrupt "Wall Street on The Waterfront."
The most important action will take place at the Port of Los Angeles which handles 85% of all the West Coast container traffic. Immigrant rights groups in Los Angeles first called protests for December 12 against SSA Marine, a shipping company that is partially owned by Goldman Sachs and has been increasingly using independent contractors in their trucking operations to keep out unions. Many of these workers are immigrants, and on May 1, 2006, "The Day Without an Immigrant," the Port of Los Angeles was shut down by their mass action.
With the spreading of the December 12 action across the West Coast called by Occupy Oakland, it has become an important attempt by thousands of youth and workers to demonstrate that, with our numbers and our power as working people, we have the ability to stop the attacks of the 1% in their tracks.
The 1% is determined to force us to pay for the economic crisis of their capitalist system in the form of layoffs, budget cuts, and home foreclosures. If we are going to succeed in taking on their power, we have to be more determined than them. That's why Occupy activists are absolutely right that we must start building for powerful mass actions such as port shutdowns and strikes.
An important force that represents the struggle of the 99% against "Wall Street on the Waterfront" is the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU). This union represents 60,000 port workers all along the coast. The ILWU has a stronger, fighting and democratic tradition than most unions. The ILWU has backed the Occupy Wall Street movement since the beginning and offered valuable support. However, the ILWU leaders are mistakenly not supporting the December 12 action, claiming that the action was not discussed with them before it was called.
It is true that the ILWU rank-and-file members have a tradition of supporting community blockades and picket lines on the waterfront. On November 2, and many times in the past, they have honored protests and shut down the ports using a clause in their contracts with the ports, citing community protests as safety hazards. So, it's still possible some ILWU ranks could honor some protests.
Occupy activists should not skip over the necessary step of organizing, communicating, and working through the organizational structures of trade unions and other progressive organizations. That said, ILWU leaders have missed a truly historic opportunity to escalate the struggle against the corporate elite that is attacking all of us -- ILWU workers, Teamsters, non-union workers, Occupy protesters, and others.
Regardless of how the ILWU responds to December 12, it's crucial for the Occupy movement to build solidarity with the ILWU in the coming months. The ILWU has been locked in a major battle in Longview, Washington with EGT, a consortium of companies trying to operate the first grain terminal on the West Coast without ILWU labor in 70 years. The Occupy movement, unions and working people everywhere should be prepared to mobilize massive solidarity for the ILWU in this struggle if they ask for it.
December 12 has caught the imaginations of thousands in the Occupy movement. Regardless of the scale of the actions on December 12 and the police crackdown against the Occupy movement, as the economic crisis deepens, the need for determined mass action will grow. The occupy movement has inspired union activists looking for labor to return to its roots and launch militant struggles. Only a concerted, powerful, militant workers' movement will stop the agenda of the 1%.
The labor movement needs to break from its strategy of supporting Democrats, which many union and Occupy activists have correctly identified as a party of the 1%. Instead, the unions should be linking up with the Occupy movement to mount an independent political challenge to both corporate parties. This means relying on our own power, organizing mass actions in the streets, including occupations and strikes, and running independent candidates of the 99%.
Running independent candidates in 2012 could be a step toward launching an independent party of workers, Occupy activists, and all oppressed groups to demand living wage jobs for all, an end to foreclosures and budget cuts, a free single-payer health care system for all, and an end to the wars. This should be tied to breaking the power of Wall Street by bringing into public ownership the huge banks that dominate our economy and using these resources to create a democratic socialist economy to provide for the needs of the 99% not the1%.
Join Actions this Monday, December 12!
For more info: http://westcoastportshutdown.org/
Meet at Westlake Plaza (4th Ave & Pine St. downtown) for a 1pm rally, then march to blockade the Port of Seattle.
There will be two rallies near the port at 3pm and 6pm at the Spokane Street fishing area, just to the east of the Spokane St. bridge, near the intersection of SW Spokane St. & SW Manning St. under the West Seattle bridge. The 125 bus goes there from downtown. From West Seattle, get off at Chelan Ave SW and SW Spokane St. and walk east along Alki bike path.
Come to the Spokane St. fishing area anytime after 3pm, and Occupy Seattle members will meet you there to show you where to find the port picket lines.
Action begins at Maritime Heritage Park at 11:30. Bring signs and be ready to shout: We're going to pay a visit to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company office nearby!
8 AM - 8 PM
Port of Olympia, Corner of Franklin and Market