By Jack Heyman #8780, Howard Keylor #20447, Larry Wright #8534, Retired Members of Local 10 - January 15, 2015
All across the country hundreds of thousands of people have been taking to the streets protesting against police killing of unarmed mainly people of color. They need the power of labor to back them up. We, longshore workers, are locked in a fight with a hard-timing employer, the PMA. Community and labor support could bolster our struggle like in the 1934 Big Strike and the 2010 port shutdown to demand justice for Oscar Grant and the 2011 shutdown in solidarity with Wisconsin workers. Let’s bring our struggles together- in unity there is strength!
ILWU Local 10 has a long and proud history of standing up against social injustice no matter what the odds. That’s how our union was formed in the white hot class struggles of 1934 when police killed two maritime strikers here in San Francisco. That’s why our local does not accept police as members. As the sidewalk mural in front of our union hall says “Two ILA Men Shot in the Back, Police Murder”. A General Strike was organized to protest the killings in the face of police and the National Guard troops. Local 10 can show the way again today.
Martin Luther King, Jr., before his assassination, was made an honorary member of Local 10. He too was hounded to death by the police and FBI. The U.S. government, at the service of the employing class, has dutifully executed and imprisoned union leaders. ILWU President Harry Bridges, Ben Fletcher, the black President of the Philadelphia ILA local and Joe Hill, the Wobbly, are just a few. The class struggle and the struggle against racial oppression are linked, going back to the days of slavery. A strong labor movement defends workers and all the oppressed. As we say in ILWU, ”AN INJURY TO ONE IS AN INJURY TO ALL!”
Meanwhile, longshoremen have been working without a contract while negotiating for 8 months, the longest in ILWU’s history. The employers are on the attack after having won major concessionary contracts in grain with the help of a federal mediator. They’re now using that same federal mediator to settle the longshore contract. Now, they’ve stopped ordering workers on the night side except for American-flagged ships. This is clearly a phony patriotic provocation to pit night side workers against day side workers. ILWU’s hiring hall was won with the blood of strikers in 1934 to share the work without discrimination or favoritism. Local 10 must not allow employers to destroy our union hiring hall and the principle of equalization of work. PMA companies have also reduced manning in ports and fired gangs to intimidate members into accepting a concessionary agreement. ILWU needs to answer PMA’s challenge with the power of coordinated action coastwise.
Now is the time for Local 10 to take the lead, just as we’ve always done. Across the country unions have fought to make Martin Luther King Day an official holiday. We can do our part by marching and protesting the police killings and to show the Coast who’s got the power. That will send a message loud and clear that the PMA bosses can understand.