Who We Are
- Jack Heyman, Chair (ILWU Local 10 retired)
- Robert Irminger, Secretary-Treasurer (IBU/ILWU)
- Steve Zeltzer, Communications Director (Labor Video Project)
- Steve Ongerth, Webmaster (IWW & IBU/ILWU)
Organizations listed for identification purposes only.
Origins of the Transport Workers Solidarity Committee
In April 2003, at the start of the Iraq War, anti-war protesters organized demonstrations in the port of Oakland to stop the shipment of war materiel. They chanted “The war is for profit. Workers can stop it.” Without warning, Oakland police attacked the demonstrators and longshoremen who work in the port injuring scores. The UN Human Rights Commission criticized the U.S. government for its violent repression of protesters.
Amongst those injured and arrested was ILWU Local 10 Business Agent Jack Heyman. A defense campaign was organized to demand the bogus charges be dropped against the Oakland 25 anti-war protesters by the Committee to Defend ILWU Local 10 Business Agent Jack Heyman. After the charges were dropped in 2006 the protesters successfully sued the city for $2,000,000 dollars.
Members of the Committee, mainly ILWU members, several of whom had worked together since the anti-apartheid demonstrations of the 1980’s, decided to continue labor solidarity work. The Committee was renamed the Transport Workers Solidarity Committee. Our record of impressive solidarity actions in a short period of time are in no small measure due to collaboration with ILWU Local 10. Some accounts can be found in the ILWU’s newspaper, The Dispatcher.
- Nov. 2007 International Anti-War Conference at Local 10’s hall with delegates from around the country and Mexico, Japan, Korea, Canada and Britain, including left Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn. It was resolved to take anti-war strike action resolutions to our unions. Local 10 did exactly that and on May Day 2008 all West Coast ports were shut down demanding an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This was the first-ever strike in the U.S. against an imperialist war.
- We opposed the government-imposed TWIC cards for port workers. In 2007, we helped Local 10 organize rallies to defend two black brothers of Local 10, Ruffin and Harrison, who were racially profiled and brutally beaten by police under the guise of “port security” when they went to workin the port of Sacramento.Brother Ken Riley, president of the Charleston longshore union, flew out to attend the rally at the Woodland courthouse, but not one ILWU International officer participated.
- Working with Local 10 and community supporters, we helped defend Palestinian rights. In 2010, port demonstrations were organized to protest the Israeli army killing of the aid workers sailing to Gaza with relief supplies. Following the example of Durban, South Africa dockworkers, Oakland longshoremen refused to cross a community picket line for 24 hours to work a Zim Lines ship. Local 10 refused permission for an official Israeli consular delegation to attend the union’s Executive Board meeting. This was the first U.S. union action to protest Israeli atrocities. On the other hand, ILWU International Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams had visited Israel in 2007, hosted by the Zionist government in flagrant conflict with ILWU’s position.
- We supported the locked-out ILWU Boron miners and their right to picket the LA/LB docks. The International officers blocked the miners from picketing and instead led an impotent campaign to appeal to the “morality” of the Rio Tinto stockholders, flag-waving picketing at the British Consulate and pressure through politicians. The International ILWU officers’ PR campaign peaked with their caravan “From the Docks to the Desert”. Instead if they’d used longshore union power it should have been from the desert to the docks. The miners ended up with a concessionary contract and scabs in the mines.
- We helped Local 10 organize defense campaigns for innocent black prisoner Troy Davis, whose sister Martina Correia got a standing ovation at the 2009 ILWU Convention in Seattle while motivating a resolution calling for freedom for her brother. We’ve supported political prisoner, Mumia Abu-Jamal who has been taken off death row but whose life is threatened by the FOP as long as he remains imprisoned in Pennsylvania. In 2010, TWSC helped organize the rally in Oakland calling for justice for the family of Oscar Grant after BART police shot this unarmed young black man in the back. Local 10 shut down all Bay Area ports and SEIU city workers coordinated a mobilization for the rally in front of City Hall, now renamed Oscar Grant Plaza by Occupy.
- Local 10 was attacked by the bosses’ Pacific Maritime Association citing the slave labor Taft-Hartley Act for expressing solidarity with Wisconsin state workers who were occupying the capitol building. When AFL-CIO President Trumpka called for “no business as usual” to support the besieged Wisconsin public workers’ unions Local 10 was the only union to actually implement a solidarity action by shutting down Bay Area ports for 24 hours. We helped organize defense rallies for Local 10. But neither Trumpka nor ILWU President McEllrath came to the local’s defense.
- We organized solidarity visits to Longview for ILWU members in the Bay Area. The International officers isolated Local 21, denying them an emergency dual area meeting or a special Longshore Caucus to develop a coordinated defense against EGT and police attacks. We presented a banner from the Liverpool dockers’ struggle “Defend Free Speech, Defend the Picket Line” to Longview Local 21 at their union meeting. We coordinated solidarity rallies and marches for the embattled Longview longshore workers and facilitated links to Occupy Oakland. Our banner read “Shut Down All WestCoast Ports, Support Longview Longshore Workers.” The ILWU took no coastwide action. The union tops conceded to EGT’s concessionary contract bypassing the union hiring hall, calling it a “victory”. That EGT contract will certainly be demanded by the Northwest grain industry and set the stage for concessionary bargaining in the 2014 master Pacific Coast contract.