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In Memory of Todd Carroll Price

IBU - Tue, 10/14/2014 - 13:29
Categories: Unions

Baltimore IWW: To the Picket Line for Jimmy Johns Workers!

IWW - Tue, 10/14/2014 - 11:37

Join the IWW Jimmy John's Workers Union for a picket on:

Sunday, October 19 at 11:00 am
Jimmy John's, 401 W Pratt St, Baltimore, Maryland 21201
Click here to RSVP

The Jimmy John's bosses are at it again. Despite previous warnings they continue to retaliate against our members for wanting dignity, respect, and more of the good things of life on the job.

Danny Dolch and Mike Gillett are attacking our members through retaliatory scheduling and through the firing of one of our members, fellow worker James Hegler.

read more

Categories: Unions

Red Teamsters

Current News - Tue, 10/14/2014 - 10:56

Red Teamsters
Red Teamsters
by Bryan D. Palmer

The radical teamsters of Minneapolis showed what democratic unionism looks like.

National Archives and Records Administration / Wikimedia Commons

It is no secret that the American worker is in trouble. Jobs are increasingly precarious, and real wages have been trending downward for decades. Unions, once strong and aggressive, now often seem to be in retreat, forced into a defensive conservatism. Barely one in ten wage earners pays union dues. 21 percent of the 14.5 million union members in the US live in two states, New York and California.

In many other regions of the country, trade unionism is a dirty word. The spirit and solidarity of the labor movement are pilloried as alien to the principles of a free (market) society.

To be sure, there are signs that many workers want to rebuild militant trade unionism. But how is this to be done? If we want to rebuild the labor movement, it’s first important to appreciate what workers accomplished in the past, and examine how they managed to win struggles in conditions that were arguably much worse than those confronting workers today. If we want to resurrect the political unconscious, Fredric Jameson’s injunction “Always historicize!” is an apt place to begin.

This year marks the eightieth anniversary of one of the most important class struggles in the history of the US labor movement. Over the course of seven months in 1934, Minneapolis teamsters waged three strikes. These historic battles set the stage for a new kind of trade unionism later in the 1930s. And, decades later, they are still relevant for a flagging labor movement.

Making a Union Town Against the Odds

In the 1920s, Minneapolis was dominated by reactionary, anti-labor employers. They were organized in a powerful body known as the Citizen’s Alliance, formed in the pre-World War I years. This Alliance blacklisted labor organizers; kept tabs on radicals; and hired spies, company guards, and stool pigeons. Strikes were crushed. Minneapolis was known as a haven for scabs.

Radicals understood the dimension of their defeat. In a 1920 Minneapolis May Day parade they decked out a donkey with a placard. “I and all of my relatives work in an open shop,” read the sign on the ass.

Yet by the end of 1934, Minneapolis was a union town. The seemingly all-powerful Citizen’s Alliance had been defeated.

The General Drivers’ Union (GDU), Local 574 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), was the unlikely engine of this transformation in class relations. With fewer than 175 truck-driving members scattered throughout small Minneapolis trucking and taxi companies in 1933, the GDU looked like anything but a vehicle of militant mobilization.

Local 574’s leadership was an ossified officialdom, hostile to militant action of any kind. Teamster International President Dan Tobin of Boston was an old-style American Federation of Labor (AFL) business unionist. Reluctant to sanction strikes, he lauded the respectability of his trucking fraternity, “craftsmen” Tobin regarded as superior to the unskilled immigrant and “colored” workers who toiled at unorganized, low-paying, and insecure jobs. Tobin did his best to insulate the Teamster ranks from the currents of radicalism that had been swirling around trade unionism for decades.

One of those currents was rooted in Minneapolis. At first, in the late 1920s and early 1930s, it seemed buried deep in the city’s coal yards. Few in number, these militants were shunned by the Teamster bureaucracy, kept out of the union, and attacked publicly as dangerous “reds.” They decided to constitute an informal organizing committee, composed of barely a dozen mostly non-union drivers and coal heavers.

From these inauspicious beginnings, the rebel contingent organized and led the 1934 strikes that changed the balance of class forces in Minneapolis. Membership in Local 574 burgeoned to seven thousand, and the union became a vibrant force. It headed up an eleven-state organizing drive that brought tens of thousands of over-the-road truckers into the labor movement, swelling the ranks of the national IBT to five hundred thousand by the early 1940s.

Revolutionaries Surface

The handful of radicals who charted this new course were a revolutionary bunch. Key figures among them had been members of the Industrial Workers of the World or the Socialist Party. Having grown frustrated with these bodies, they helped establish the Communist Party (CP) in the 1920s. The increasing Stalinization of the Communist International, and its reverberations inside the American party, sat uneasily with them, however.

In 1928­–1929, the Minneapolis dissidents criticized the Soviet Union-aligned CP, leading to their expulsion, en masse, from a party they had done much to build. They became part of a small Trotskyist movement centered in New York named the Communist League of America (CLA); the organization was renamed the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) in 1938.

The Minneapolis CLA was led by Carl Skoglund, a Swedish socialist who had immigrated to America in 1911 after organizing strikes and a mutiny of conscripted soldiers, and Vincent Ray Dunne, arguably Minnesota’s most public “red” throughout the 1920s. The Trotskyist duo grasped that organizing the transportation industry in Minneapolis was pivotal to reviving labor militancy in the doldrums of the Great Depression.

They knew the official IBT hierarchy, implacably conservative, would be of no help. So Skoglund, Dunne, and other CLAers went to work on their own. Talking union with their fellow workers, these militants drew a small number of workers into their inner circle. They widened discussions of longstanding grievances among discontented rank and file workers, both union members and unorganized laborers.

From these small beginnings grew working-class awareness that there was an alternative to the local IBT bureaucracy. All could have been squandered, however, if this volunteer organizing committee had jumped the gun, calling a strike precipitously and leading the workers to defeat. Indeed, as Dunne was fired from his job at a fuel distribution depot at the end of the 1933 coal season, the employers tiring of his public presence in protests of the unemployed, there were calls for a walkout. Dunne and Skoglund knew that spring (with coal deliveries dropping off to nothing) was not the time for a confrontation with the bosses.

The Trotskyist agitators continued their work among the teamsters. They further consolidated relations with disgruntled workers, but they also developed an adroit strategy of neutralizing the local IBT bureaucracy. First, the Trotskyist militants cultivated close working relationships with two non-CLA IBT officials who exhibited a fighting spirit, winning them over to their perspective. Second, they also secured a seat on Local 574’s executive board, getting Dunne’s brother a paid position within the GDU local, where he pressed the elementary need for workers to be prepared for possible job action.

As Farrell Dobbs would later note, “the indicated tactic was to aim the workers’ fire straight at the employers and catch the union bureaucrats in the middle. If they didn’t react positively, they would stand discredited.” All of this pushed conservative labor leaders into corners where they were forced to at least give lip service to building the kind of fighting trade unionism that they actually abhorred. This, in turn, whet the appetite for change among the workers in the industry, both organized and unorganized.

One result of this was that Local 574 actually endorsed a strike vote with a mere thirty-four union members present. Soon, however, meetings promoted by the volunteer organizing committee were drawing hundreds of boisterous workers. They demanded militant action, not the usual IBT slumber parties.

A First Strike

Some of the most pivotal of these “alternative” union meetings were scheduled on Sunday afternoons, secure in the knowledge that IBT bureaucrats would not attend. They agitated among the workers to get a sense of what the strike demands should be and promoted the need to wrestle concessions from the bosses.

The walkout finally came during a cold stretch in February 1934. With the companies needing to get fuel to customers’ furnaces, Skoglund and Dunne understood that the teamsters tasked with delivering the coal had some leverage.

On the day of the strike, the militant leaders locked their trucks inside the coal yards. Picket captains had been chosen, and they were provided with mimeographed instructions outlining the tasks and responsibilities of strike leaders. Given the large number of work sites scattered throughout the city, pickets needed to be mobile. Coal trucks and automobiles were commandeered to form “flying squadrons.” They headed off scab trucks, seized them, and dumped their loads in working-class neighborhoods; scavengers quickly gathered up the free coal.

Within hours, sixty-five of the sixty-seven coal yards in Minneapolis were closed, and 150 coal dispatching offices had been shut down. The mainstream IBT leaders, the coal bosses, and the trucking enterprises were all dumbfounded. None had anticipated the strike’s dramatic effectiveness.

The owners conceded after two and half days, and the GDU accepted a partial victory in which wages were increased modestly. More importantly, the bosses were forced to acknowledge the union during an actual strike, something that had not happened in over twenty years.

Organizing Workers to Win

In the aftermath of the February 1934 strike, the CLA revolutionaries effectively took over Local 574. They had won the workers’ respect in an actual battle with the bosses. They had also built a critical beachhead inside the IBT local, consolidating relations with those few Teamster officials who actually wanted to extend unionism in Minneapolis and promote class struggle. From this base of control, the CLA created an infrastructure that could nurture and sustain rank-and-file militancy.

The result was two strikes in May and July. Much larger and more protracted than the February walkout, they were planned down to the last detail. But the stakes had changed. The principal battle of these class struggles was over a new kind of inclusive industrial unionism.

A decisive difference between the Tobin-led IBT bureaucracy and the CLA-led Minneapolis General Drivers’ Union was that for the militants the 1934 strikes were fought to encompass all workers in the industry. Local 574 would be built by fighting — against both bosses and union bureaucrats — to include all of those who moved goods, loaded trucks, and prepared produce in Minneapolis’s market and warehouse districts.

To further marginalize their cautious opponents among the trade union tops, who wanted nothing to do with mass unionism in the trucking sector, the CLA leadership created a “Strike Committee of 100” that dwarfed the remaining reluctant GDU bureaucrats. CLA members and advocates now staffed all of the smaller, and critically important, organizing and negotiating committees.

The employers and their allies fought back viciously, relying increasingly on the Citizen’s Alliance. Municipal and state power was quick to rally to the side of law and order.

The mayor backed a vindictive police force led by a chief determined to crush the workers and willing to execute strikers and strike supporters in the street if necessary. “You have shotguns, and you know how to use them,” Police Chief Johannes instructed his officers in July 1934.

A picket captain described the police carnage in one infamous battle, memorialized as “Bloody Friday”: “They just went wild. Actually they shot at anybody that moved. … they kept on shooting until all the pickets had either hid or got shelter somewhere. Oh, they meant business.” Novelist Meredel Le Sueur’s account was more gruesomely lyrical: “[T]he cops opened fire. … men were lying crying in the street with blood spurting from the myriad wounds buckshots make. Turning instinctively for cover they were shot in the back. … Not a picket was armed with so much as a toothpick.”

Two workers died on “Bloody Friday”: Henry Ness, a striker, riddled with buckshot, succumbed to his wounds almost immediately. John Bellor, an unemployed strike supporter also critically injured in the battle died, days later. Forty thousand lined the streets and marched in Ness’s funeral procession.

To add insult to injury, Governor Floyd B. Olson, in spite of proclaiming himself a friend of the worker, called the National Guard into the increasingly stormy picture, arresting the strike leaders and taking over union headquarters.

Strike leaders were prepared for such opposition. They developed an extensive intelligence network of secretaries working for various enterprises who explained what the trucking magnates were preparing for next. The union took to the skies and the streets. It enlisted an airplane to promote labor’s cause with airborne banners and a squad of teenaged motorcyclists to courier strike leaders reports of goings on throughout Minneapolis.

Eventually, as the July-August strike made class war the central drama in the city, dividing Minneapolis irrevocably into camps of pro- and anti-strike, the CLA leadership started a daily strike newspaper, theOrganizer, staffed by an experienced Trotskyist cadre from New York.

The union set up its headquarters in a block-long vacant garage. The “nerve center” of strike headquarters was a bank of telephones staffed by volunteers. Into this phone bank flowed calls from picket captains across a designated fifteen city districts, outlining conditions and appealing for help if it was required. A short-wave radio was used to monitor police communications. Dunne and Dobbs then oversaw the dispatching of pickets.

A commissary was outfitted. Farmers donated food for the kitchen, outfitted to feed five thousand workers a day. Cooks lined up to prepare meals. A makeshift hospital was established in a section of the headquarters to care for wounded workers and their supporters. Sympathetic doctors and nurses staffed the facility on their off hours. An unemployed workers organization was established; those in its ranks were made honorary members of the GDU.

A women’s auxiliary attracted wives and daughters, mothers and aunts. All helped build the union. Integrated into the struggle, these women served meals, sandwiches, and coffee to the strikers; distributed the union newspaper; raised funds; marched on city hall; and even fought, clubs in hand, on picket lines.

Local 574 was also made into a model of democratic procedure and open discussion. Regularly convened mass meetings kept the membership apprised of strike developments. When they actually secured paid union positions after their 1934 strike victories, the Trotskyists guiding the teamsters’ insurgency changed the salary scales for Local 574 functionaries, ensuring that union officials were paid no more than those working in the industry.

In the end the workers won, and they won big. Unionism was secured in Minneapolis. Wages rose, to be sure, and conditions on the job improved. But perhaps even more importantly, unionists saw themselves and the world differently. The possibilities of what collective struggle and solidarity could achieve now factored into how workers understood their lives.

Class War Warriors and the Red Scare

All of this left the bosses apoplectic. Local 574 and its Trotskyist leadership were vilified in the mainstream newspapers. Anti-communism blanketed Minneapolis in 1934 like a dense fog.

Employers and their sociocultural allies no doubt drove the city’s Red Scare that year, but conservative labor leaders like Tobin also contributed. One striker wrote to the Organizer that as “a member of 574,” he was “a Chippewa Indian and a real American,” “not a communist,” but he deplored the way in which certain IBT leaders were adding “fuel to the fire” with their persistent red-baiting.

A leading member of Local 574 was Ray Rainbolt, a Sioux Nation trucker who credited Dunne with recruiting him to labor’s cause. Rainbolt went on to play a decisive role in the 1934 strikes, serving on a number of crucial committees and facing off against Governor Olson.

In the later 1930s, Rainbolt joined the SWP and headed up the Union Defense Guard (UDG). This body formed when fascists known as the Silver Shirts threatened to organize in Minneapolis. The Silver Shirts understood the importance of infiltrating the now-powerful unions, making them nurseries of recruitment to the Right, and replacing class-based understandings of the social order with their pernicious racism and antisemitism. Rainbolt, who had military experience in World War I, drilled the rifle-bearing trade unionists of the UDG, training them in the event of a reactionary attack that never materialized.

Extending the Meaning of Local Struggle

Minneapolis was not the only hot spot in the 1934 class war. Other strikes, including those waged by Toledoauto-parts workers and San Francisco longshoremen, were also momentous battles. They, too, were led by “reds.” But their leaderships were neither as embedded within the locale and its particular industry, nor as successful, as the Minneapolis Trotskyists.

The Minneapolis strikes erupted at a time when the American labor movement was poised to take an important step forward. In theaters across the United States, millions saw film shorts showing workers, police, and Citizen’s Alliance-recruited “special deputies” fighting in the streets of the Minneapolis market district. Working-class audiences saw Minneapolis laborers responding to violence — not with submission, but with resistance.

At the May 22 “Battle of Deputies Run,” strikers had routed the 1,500 “special deputies.” Described as a rag-tag assembly of “salesmen, clerks, and patriotic golfers” whipped into a frenzy against “red dictators,” the Citizen’s Alliance anti-strike recruits also included university fraternity “boys,” paid thugs, playboys, and socialites, including some who came to picket lines in jodhpurs and polo-hats or cleated mountaineering boots (not the best footwear for a fight in alleyways paved with cobblestones).

Two of their number — Citizen’s Alliance attorney, local businessman, and pillar of respectable Minneapolis society, Arthur Lyman, and a marginal “penny capitalist” in the wood-hauling sector, Peter Erath — succumbed to injuries sustained in a deadly market clash with strikers already embittered by police brutality.

Meridel Le Sueur wrote of an “emergent world … coming from the past … into the future. … It is the point of emerging violence … the point of departure of growth.”

United Mine Workers of America leader John L. Lewis saw the strike similarly. As one of Lewis’s early biographers, Saul Alinsky, wrote in 1947, when “Blood ran in [the streets] of Minneapolis,” it got the burly, idiosyncratic head of the miners union to sit up and take notice.

Lewis was no friend of militant, democratic labor organization, but he could still appreciate that the moribund unionism of the AFL needed to be revitalized. The Congress of Industrial Organization (CIO) mass production unionism that Lewis would soon advocate was thus born of the insights and activities of the Minneapolis CLA leaders and the struggles of the militant rank and file that they mobilized.

A Revolutionary Leadership’s Day in Court

For all the success of the Minneapolis workers’ revolt of 1934, its achievements would not be allowed to survive into the post-World War II era. Workers following the leadership of Trotskyists, beating back bosses and trade union bureaucrats and, in the face of fascist threat, arming themselves in a Union Defense Guard, certainly caught the attention of powerful opponents.

As these same workers brought the lessons of Minneapolis into the IBT interstate organizing drive of the late 1930s, the Justice Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the employers, a newly elected Republican governor of Minnesota, the IBT bureaucracy (with a young and later to be infamous Jimmy Hoffa playing a leading role), and even left-wing rivals such as the Communist Party, colluded during World War II to displace and defeat the Trotskyists in the Minneapolis Teamster leadership.

Using the notorious 1939 Smith Act, which stifled dissent by labeling it treason, the state relied on the war climate of 1940-43 to haul twenty-nine SWP members and Minneapolis Teamster leaders into court on trumped-up charges; eighteen, including much of the leadership of the US Trotskyist movement, were railroaded to jail.

Tobin and the IBT bureaucracy, relying on state labor union certification boards, sweetheart contracts with employers, and bands of Hoffa-led thugs, attacked the Minneapolis local in the courts and on the streets. Driven out of the AFL and into the CIO, and then forced to concede that it could not sustain a union against recalcitrant employers, the state, and the official Teamster bureaucracy, the Trotskyists who had reinvigorated unionism in Minneapolis were forced to abdicate their positions of leadership to the Tobin/Hoffa forces. It was a sorry denouement.

Remembering 1934

Those who wish to rebuild the labor movement can learn — and in some cases, have learned — from the Minneapolis events of 1934.

The Chicago teachers’ strike of 2012, for instance, originated in a small organizing committee of militants who managed to bring a union that had avoided overt class struggle since 1987 into an epic confrontation with a neoliberal mayor. Not surprisingly, the Caucus of Rank and File Educators, on the way to this successful mobilization, held reading groups for organizers that focused on Farrell Dobbs’s account of the 1934 strikes, Teamster Rebellion.

From the Occupy movement to the protests in Wisconsin, from the minimum-wage victories in Seattle and elsewhere to the struggles to organize Walmart, workers are showing they are capable of fighting to win and that class struggle is, once again, on the agenda.

But most of these current fights, as crucially important as they are, remain weakened by a lack of the kind of political leadership that guided the 1934 strikes in Minneapolis. Decades later, a member of the “Strike Committee of 100” recalled: “The rank and file was really the power of the whole movement, but they still needed that leadership to lead them. I don’t care how good the army is, without a general they’re no good.” The struggle for trade-union revival in the age of neoliberal capitalism is simultaneously the struggle to rebuild the revolutionary left.

The Minneapolis Trotskyists provide an example of what that left might look like. They were not, contrary to Citizen’s Alliance red-baiting, making “Revolution in Minneapolis” in 1934. Their aim was far more modest. They wanted to build democratic, mass-production unionism, creating a defense for the working class against the worst excesses of capitalist exploitation and transcending the narrow job-trust conception of labor organization promoted by Dan Tobin and his ilk.

In their militant and principled refusal to succumb to business unionism, the leaders of the Minneapolis strikes built important bridges to radical possibility. It was this dogged militancy that impelled the state and capital, aided by conservative unionists, to attack and marginalize the leadership of the 1934 Minneapolis strikes and its understanding of how trade unionism in the US could be rebuilt.

Eighty years later, these strikes, with their lessons about the capacity of workers to fight even in bad times, still live for us as a pathway to possibility.

Tags: teamstersMinneapolisTrotskyists
Categories: Labor News

Veteran NYC Bus Drivers, Matrons Rally At City Hall

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Tue, 10/14/2014 - 08:20
CBS New YorkOctober 14, 2014View the original piece

Veteran New York City school bus drivers and matrons took to the steps of City Hall demanding the mayor do something to help save their jobs.

Hundreds rallied Friday morning, angry that the private bus companies that employed them laid them off and replaced them with less experienced workers with lower wages.

Click here to read more at CBS New York.

Issues: Bus Drivers
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Liberia: Attempt to contain Ebola hit as health workers go on strike

Labourstart.org News - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Guardian
Categories: Labor News

Hong Kong: Dark forces unleashed against independent Hong Kong unions

Labourstart.org News - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Union Book
Categories: Labor News

EEOC Sues FedEx Ground for Nationwide Disability Discrimination

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 06:47
Kansas City infoZineOctober 13, 2014View the original piece

Shipping giant repeatedly failed to provide needed accommodations to deaf and hard-of-hearing package handlers and applicants, federal agency charges.

Baltimore, MD - infoZine - Shipping giant FedEx Ground Package System, Inc., (FedEx Ground) violated federal law nationwide by discriminating against a large class of deaf and hard-of-hearing package handlers and job applicants for years, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it announced today.

Click here to read more at Kanas City infoZone.

Categories: Labor News, Unions

Declaration of the Regular Convention of Doro-Chiba-Attack On Rail Safety And Working Class

Current News - Sun, 10/12/2014 - 18:14

Declaration of the Regular Convention of Doro-Chiba-Attack On Rail Safety And Working Class
September 29, 2014
We are proud of telling you that Doro-Chiba has established a fresh policy for the coming hard days through examining the whole developments of its struggle for the last one year and unanimously adopted it on its 43rd Annual Convention.

A new and significant dimension has been achieved though one year’s struggle. Over the case of unjustly fired 1,047 national railway workers at the time of the Division and Privatization of Japan Railway, the Tokyo High Court (chief of the judges is Nanba) ruled on September 25, 2013 that the dismissal of these workers was unfair labor practice because it was carried out according to a discriminatory employment list, which had been prepared by the management of the former National Railways and the new JR Companies. This ruling has given us an effective weapon to fight back prevailing union busting committed after the “National-Railway Privatization model” which has been making concessions and setbacks of Japanese labor union movement at large since the Division and Privatization of National Railways in 1987. It is urgent to develop energetically 100,000 signature collecting campaign for the national railway struggle and achieve the victory in the Supreme Court. Let’s develop the National Campaign of National Railway Struggle!

The success of May 2nd strike of Doro-Chiba against outsourcing has brought us three new union members from the workplace of Chiba Train Service (CTS), sub-contractor of JR-East. Doro-Chiba waged the strike with a slogan: “Outsourcing destroys rail safety. In the current system of JR, serious railway accidents are inevitable. The first to hit by rail accident are workers of CTS. Defend the lives of colleagues of CTS”. This contributed to break down the wall between the workers of JR and the workers of CTS. All through this strike in May, we have once again realized that rail safety constitutes the Achilles’s Heel of outsourcing and that the organizationally-united power of JR and CTS workers is the most powerful weapon to crush outsourcing. 15 years’ struggle against outsourcing of JR capital has significantly proved that labor union can confront and defeat neo-liberalism.

On October 1, we are going to make a new step by waging strike against outsourcing. Recently in our workplaces, there are numerous industrial accidents, resulting from forced outsourcing: a colleague in Makuhari Depot lost one fifth finger and another fellow worker in Choshi station scarcely escaped from being run over by a train during his repair work under the train floor. CTS management is betraying its promise of “guarantee of employment for elderly workers” in actual practice. We shall never allow destruction of safety and job by outsourcing. Desperately needed demand for workers is not outsourcing but prolongation of retiring age.
The planned strike on October 1st is to fight back the policy of the Abe administration of whole-sale privatization and casualization. We call on all of you to rise up together for the strike!

The recent developments have proved the bankruptcy of the JR (Japan Railway Companies) system, brought forth by the Division and Privatization of Japan National Railways. We are witnessing a rapid and drastic change of the whole situation around JR. Catastrophic collapse of rail safety, breakdown of management, impending mandatory age-limit retirement of JR workers in mass scale, failure of overseas advance and development strategy are thrusting JR Companies into the hell. The company management, however, is intent to turn the difficult situation created by the mass mandatory retirement into an opportunity to sweep away militant labor movement which used to be represented by Kokuro (National Railway Workers Union), till its last remnant. In face of this desperate capitalist offensive, all traditional labor unions are surrendering in a miserable way. Our fresh policy decided by the Regular Convention is to confront JR attack squarely and demand extension of retirement age, secured job and amelioration of working conditions, in which workers can work till 65 years old*.
*When the Japanese government revised the Employees’ Pension Insurance Act in 1994 and decided to raise the pensionable age from 60 to 65 against huge resistance of workers, it pledged in return to recommend employers to raise retirement age or rehire their retirees in some form or another in order to avoid leaving retirees without income.

The Abe administration has forced a cabinet decision that admits to exercise the right to collective self-defense, trampling the Constitution. We stand at a grave turning point of history. Conversion into a state capable of war is attempted. The reactionary political drive for war has been blocked for a long time by the fierce struggle of labor movement.
The labor movement was, however, forced to experience a bitter setback by the Division and Privatization of National Railways. About 30 years after that, the government is now attempting to start a new pre-war period. The road to war should be blocked by every means. We are determined to stop war for our life.

The profound catastrophe caused by the global economic crisis is dangerously provoking war in Iraq, Syria, Palestine and Ukraine. A total collapse of “Abenomics” has begun. The government is destroying workers’ unity and solidarity, driving workers into a race to the bottom and depriving them of the right to their existence. Furthermore, the ruling class intends to wage war for the survival of its own regime.

Even though in Fukushima unprecedented crisis has been deepening, the government of Abe still insists shamelessly that the whole situation is completely under control and there is nothing to worry about. It is a downright lie. The government is attempting to restart the nuclear power plants abandoning people of Fukushima.

In Sanrizuka (Narita) and Okinawa, anger of workers and farmers is exploding against outrageous assaults by the government. Indignation against unbearable present situation is raging in the whole world in widespread general strikes and demonstrations. It is high time we should take back militant labor movement. We will accomplish the change of labor movement.

Let’s organize workers for a more powerful labor union by gathering all members’ efforts!
Let’s expand the Confederation of Motive Power Unions across Japan!
Let’s strengthen the workers’ international solidarity struggle!
Let’s overthrow reactionary Abe administration by gathering all angry voices!
Let’s organize ten thousands people for November 2 National Workers’ All-out Rally!


Tags: Doro-Chibarailway safetyJapan Rail
Categories: Labor News

Golden Gate bus transportation supervisors vote to strike

Current News - Sun, 10/12/2014 - 14:45

Golden Gate bus transportation supervisors vote to strike
Golden Gate bus transportation supervisors vote to strike
Posted: 2:33 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014
Golden Gate bus transportation supervisors vote to strike

By Tom Vacar
SAN FRANCISCO — More Golden Gate Bridge District unions say they will strike for a day in what they say is yet another effort to avoid bigger labor actions in the future.
Come Friday, Oct. 17, the Golden Gate Bridge could see a short but enraging commute.
Every workday, 22,000 riders take Golden Gate Transit buses across bridges to the city and the East Bay.
But a fight over essentially forcing workers into a less expensive employee healthcare plan - less expensive for the district - is drawing more labor force loathing.
"We've decided to collectively withhold our labor on Friday October the 17th for a one day strike," says Tim Jenkins, a Teamsters Union Golden Gate Bridge worker.
"The dispatchers and the bus servicers will be on strike and that will cause the entire system to be shut down. The ferry service will continue to run and the bridge will not be impacted," says Alex Tonisson of the Golden Gate Labor Coalition.
Workers say being forced into a lower cost healthcare plant could cost each member as much as $12,000 a year.
But the Bridge District says that’s not true, "The coalition says, 'we're going to have to pay $12,000 a year.' The District is giving every employee, who takes this plan, $12,000 on a debit card that they can use for health care expenses. The district is absorbing the cost of that high deductible," says Priya Clemens, Bridge District Spokeswoman.
"In 3 years, when those HRA cards are no longer allowed under the Affordable Health Act, the District is going to take those away. They're setting up a system that's going to cause massive increases for the cost of healthcare for our members in the future," counters Tonisson of the Golden Gate Labor Coalition.
Is there any solution in sight short of a strike? "The District has contacted State Mediation Services to request their help and we've also asked the union coalition multiple times to joins us in that mediation," says Bridge District Spokeswoman Clemens.

Tags: Golden Gate Bridge DriversteamstersConcession Bargaining
Categories: Labor News

USA: Global support for UAW organizing in the South

Labourstart.org News - Sat, 10/11/2014 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: IndustriALL Global Union
Categories: Labor News

The ILWU leadership has accepted a deal that will further cripple their union.

Current News - Fri, 10/10/2014 - 17:30

The ILWU leadership has accepted a deal that will further cripple their union.
The Latest Defeat
by Robert Brenner

The ILWU leadership has accepted a deal that will further cripple their union.

The tentative agreement reached between the ILWUand the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Association (PNGHA) contains no surprises. It would impose a major reduction in working conditions and shop floor power, the latest in a cascade of defeats that started with the signing of the union’s historic contract with Export Grain Terminal (EGT) atLongview, Washington in February 2012.

Nor does it bode well for the 20,000 members of the union’s Longshore division, whose contract with the Pacific Maritime Association expired on June 30 and whose fate is being decided in ongoing bargaining.

The negotiated agreement closely mirrors the disastrous contract that EGT imposed on the ILWU. The giant corporations of the PNGHA had, from the outset, demanded from the ILWU the same deal as it gave EGT, in order to keep labor costs low and remain competitive with its technologically advanced rival. They are now about to achieve it.

The ILWU’s accord with the PNGHA would give back to the employers virtually all of the impressive gains in work rules and shop floor powers that the union had wrung from them during many decades of struggle in northwest grain, as well as in longshore.

The union would lose control over the hiring hall, the foundation of its power. The companies would get to hire from a list of workers that they had pre-approved.

Gone would be the eight-hour, even the ten-hour day. The employers would now be free to impose twelve-hour shifts with no overtime. They would take over the control room, from which managers would oversee and regulate the entire process of production. They also would assume the strategic job of the supercargo, charged with overseeing the loading of the ship, which had hitherto always been held by the union. Management would, in addition, get the authority to set the skill requirements for the job of millwright, whose task it is to build and repair machines, and by this means gain the potential to exclude union workers.

The employers would gain the right to prevent work stoppages. The ILWU would maintain its traditional rights to honor legitimate picket lines, to attend stop work meetings, and refuse to labor under unsafe conditions. But this would be rendered meaningless by the employers’ right to use its own managers in place of ILWU members whenever ILWU members exercised those rights.

The ILWU leadership has thus accepted, after a year and half in which its members were locked out and replaced by scabs, roughly the same deal that the PNGHA originally proposed as early as September 2012, then imposed at United Grain, Columbia Grain, and Louis Dreyfuss the following December.

The ILWU had secured, on a temporary basis, a highly concessionary but somewhat more worker-friendly agreement with TEMCO, the joint venture headed up by the Cargill Corporation (which had defected for the time being from the PNGHA). But, as per its contract with the ILWU, TEMCO will now revert to the more employer-friendly accord secured by the other PNGHA members. Kalama Export, the last of the major grain export corporations of the region, had long ago secured the profoundly substandard contract that had served as the template for EGT. This means that pretty much the same degraded terms will now apply more or less uniformly across the Pacific Northwest grain handling industry.

That the union leadership has meekly accepted almost the same offer it rejected at the start of negotiations two years ago was in fact quite predictable. After all, the ILWU had refused to mobilize its power to stand up to the grain-exporting giants.

The International relied essentially on a strategy of going to the NLRB and the courts, while uttering pathetic nationalistic slurs against the foreign-owned corporations. At no time did it try to stop scabs from working, and it ran roughshod over every initiative by the rank-and-file to organize direct action to that end.

How could there have been any other outcome, especially against wealthy multinational corporations bent on obtaining the lowest possible costs to make the highest possible profits in the spectacularly expanding grain export trade with China and other East Asian countries?

In all likelihood the International’s terrible contract will be ratified, as the ILWU leadership has worn down and demoralized the membership for the better part of a year and a half, forcing them to stand by helplessly as scabs did their work. The International did not even consider building the sort of broad cross-union and extra-union solidarity for mass direct action that had enabled the small, isolated Longview local to put real fear into the heart of the EGT Leviathan — before the ILWU leadership itself brutally undercut it.

Instead, the International has proved its worth to the PMA, pulling the rug out from under a contingent of impoverished port truckers at the very moment ILWU members had begun to honor their picket line and close down several terminals at the Port of Los Angeles. The International justifies this betrayal of its own supposed principles by claiming the Teamsters Union needed to be taught a lesson for encroaching on its jurisdiction at a warehouse in northern California. But with such a weak and self-centered leadership, it would be surprising if the membership saw any alternative to acceding to the concession-ridden contract.

As with EGT in the recent past and no doubt PMA in the near future, the ILWU leadership is demonstrating yet again how a union hierarchy, structurally insulated from the outcome of class struggle — they don’t work on the shop floor but are materially supported by rank-and-file dues — can blithely oversee disastrous defeat for its membership while escaping scot-free.

Tags: ilwuPMAconcessionsConcession Bargaining
Categories: Labor News

Canada Rail companies fight new rules to prevent crew fatigue Leaked Transport Canada report details high levels of ‘extreme fatigue’ among freight train operators

Current News - Fri, 10/10/2014 - 14:49

Rail companies fight new rules to prevent crew fatigue
Leaked Transport Canada report details high levels of ‘extreme fatigue’ among freight train operators
By John Nicol and Dave Seglins, CBC News Posted: Oct 07, 2014 4:11 PM ET Last Updated: Oct 08, 2014 9:29 AM ET

Rail companies fight rules to prevent crew fatigue 2:00

Proudlock conversation with CP Rail dispatcher 16:14

Canada’s major freight rail companies are fighting moves by the federal transportation regulator to curb “extreme fatigue” among railway engineers, a CBC News investigation has found.

CN Rail, CP and the Railway Association of Canada went on the attack two weeks ago at a “tense and heated” meeting of industry, union and government representatives, according to a number of people present.

• LISTEN | The Current: Dave Seglins on chronic fatigue among Canada's train operators at 8:37 a.m. ET
The conflict was over research by Transport Canada that found high levels of exhaustion among workers driving freight trains, and proposals by the regulator to impose new limits on scheduling to help reduce their fatigue.

"The body language from industry was, 'You're not going to push us around,'" said Rob Smith of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference recalling a meeting two weeks ago of the Fatigue Management Working Group, part of the federal government’s Advisory Council on Railway Safety.

He said industry was determined to ​discredit Transport Canada's research and thwart the regulator's proposals.

CBC received internal documents

CBC News has obtained internal Transport Canada documents, including meeting minutes and the working group's draft report that details widespread fatigue among freight engineers and proposes mandatory restrictions — some of which are already law in the U.S. — on how workers are scheduled to prevent exhaustion.

The government report concludes that rail lags behind the airline and trucking industries in dealing with fatigue. Reviews over the last three decades have always left it to the railway industry and its unions to sort out the problem.

In 1986, 23 people died after a CN freight train crashed into a VIA passenger train in Hinton, Alta. Investigators suspect the CN crew fell asleep. (Karen Sornberger/Edmonton Journal/CP)

​ In 2009, the regulator established the fatigue working group to address this longstanding issue.
Transport Canada's own analysis of CNand CP’s employee scheduling records from six different rail terminals across Canada concluded that, based on the timing and length of each shift, assigned through an unpredictable on-call system, that “extreme fatigue” was rampant:

• In four per cent of cases, employees were already “extremely fatigued” at the start of their shifts;
• 45 per cent of employees became extremely exhausted during work;
• and nearly all, or 99 per cent, were fatigued at least once during the month.
Combined with the results of a union survey, Transport Canada is now proposing enhanced safeguards and wants to harmonize Canada’s rail rules with requirements already in place in the U.S. that limit the hours and days railroaders can spend at work or on call.

• Freight train drivers report falling asleep on the job
The moves are designed to prevent companies from pressuring workers to drive trains while exhausted, as was the case in 2009 when a CP Rail dispatcher phoned engineer Paul Proudlock in the middle of the night, asking that he report for duty to drive a passenger train in Toronto.

• Hear Proudlock’s call with the CP Rail dispatcher and read more about his story
Proudlock refused, explaining he only had two hours' sleep. But the dispatcher told him he had to take it or else he’d be marked as "refusing duty," exposing him to potential discipline. Proudlock complained and Transport Canada eventually admonished CP Rail.

Accusations of bias, bad science

Discussions at the September 17-18 meetings of the working group became heated in a conflict over the working group's draft report, which the Railway Association of Canada described "as being written by someone who wants to shut the railways down at night,” according to the minutes.

CN’s Don Watts attacked the regulator's findings. “It appears that TC had a biased opinion coming into this meeting,” the minutes state. Because the group hadn't reached consensus and CN opposed the report’s findings, Watts expressed concern that the public could get a copy of it through the Access to Information Act.

In the summer of 2009, Paul Proudlock was asked to drive a GO Transit passenger train on two hours' sleep. (CBC)

CN also challenged Transport Canada’s definition of “extremely fatigued,” and, along with CP and the RAC, said all the data collected in its February 2014 analysis of scheduling at six terminals was skewed. It “was one of the busiest months in 20 years, as poor weather conditions resulted in an increase in emergency situations where employees were required to work longer shifts,” the industry representatives said.

Transport Canada defended its work, saying scheduling should always ensure safety "regardless of the weather." As for whether fatigue was considered "moderate" or "extreme," Transport Canada argued that for a worker to be routinely awake for 17 to 19 hours is equivalent to them being drunk.

The government regulator cited seven Transportation Safety Board (TSB) accidents within the last five years where shift irregularity contributed "to the fatigue of the crew."

However, the reports says the problem is likely much worse, because the TSB does not routinely include the effects of monotonous work, high workloads and environment conditions in its incident investigations.

Railways stalling because of cost: union rep

The railroad reps were supposed to come to the meeting with recommendations so the working group could arrive at a consensus on six factors: scheduling; accounting for the length of time the person has already been awake; recuperative rest; respecting the challenges of night and day work; the ability of an employee to assess their own fatigue level; and rest facilities away from home.

In some cases, CN, CP and the RAC said they would not support rule changes, arguing that their fatigue management plans and health and safety committees already address these issues. CP hadn't formed an opinion on some issues. The RAC's McKinnon told the meeting it was going to be impossible to reach a consensus.

Transport Canada staff responded that the government had the final say if no consensus was reached: "Fatigue is an issue which can no longer be ignored."

• CP's Keith Creel interview transcript
• CN statement​
• RAC statement
Since the meeting, the rail companies have demanded that Transport Canada rewrite its draft report.

"Industry knows there's a problem, but doesn't want to address it," said the TCRC's Smith. "They wanted to go back and open this up again and have their own researchers look into it, where they've had months and months to do this previously."

The reason, he says, is the "cost."

Clinton Marquardt, a fatigue specialist who has worked with the TSB on 91 accident investigations, most recently the Lac Megantic disaster, says company demands for profit and efficiency have for too long been prioritized at the expense of the welfare of engineers.

“I think Transport Canada has to step up and play a strong leadership role here and say, 'Enough is enough,'” Marquardt says, adding that it's time for rail companies to be forced to put their employees' biological needs for sleep ahead of profits.

Tags: train safetyfatigueCanada
Categories: Labor News

TDU Convention & the 2016 Election

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Fri, 10/10/2014 - 11:29

Teamsters who are looking for new leadership and a new direction in our union in 2016 will be making plans at the TDU Convention, Nov. 7-9.

In 2014, Teamsters Voted No in massive numbers to reject concessions at UPS, UPS Freight, and in the freight industry.

Will 2016 be the year that members vote for new leadership and a new direction in our International Union?

That topic is on the mind of Teamster activists across the country—and it will be on the agenda of the TDU Convention, Nov. 7-9 in Cleveland.

Teamster local union leaders Sandy Pope, Fred Zuckerman, Tim Sylvester, and Tony Jones have been meeting with Teamsters across the country and they will all be attending the TDU Convention.

To win in 2016, it will take a coalition effort and rank-and-file Teamsters who are ready to get involved, build local campaign committees, run for delegate to the IBT Convention and more.

The TDU Convention will include workshops and discussions like: How Teamster Elections Work and What it Will Take to Win in 2016, Running for IBT Convention Delegate and TDU and the 2016 Teamster Election.

You do not have to be a TDU member to attend the Convention. But you do need to register in advance.

Saturday-only registration is available. Speakers on Saturday include Sandy Pope, Fred Zuckerman and Tim Sylvester as well as Teamsters speaking about the Vote No movement, the attack on pensions, and Teamster reform. 

The TDU Convention also features workshops on contract enforcement, grievance handling, pensions, rank-and-file organizing, Teamster elections and more.

To find out more about the TDU Convention, call TDU at 313-842-2600 or click here to send us a message and we’ll call you.

Click here to register for the Convention.

Issues: TDU
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Workshops, Education & Inspiration

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Fri, 10/10/2014 - 11:20

The TDU Convention, Nov. 7-9 at the Cleveland Airport Sheraton, features the best Teamster educational programs in our union.

We will be posting a Convention program guide and schedule soon.

For now, here’s a sneak peak at some of the workshops and meetings at this year’s Convention.


Contract Enforcement & Grievance Handling

Beating the Boss in Discipline Cases

Winning Your UPS Grievances at Panel or Arbitration

Dealing with Difficult Supervisors


Legal Rights & Pensions

Labor Law for Teamster Members

Defending Our Pensions from the Central States to Capitol Hill


Organizing for Union Power

Organizing a Winning Contract Campaign

Bridging the Teamster Generational Divide: Getting Members Involved & Working Together

Using Facebook & Social Media to Organize Teamsters

Building Part-Time Power at UPS


Teamster Elections

TDU and the 2016 Election

Running for Convention Delegate

The 2016 Teamster Election—How it Works; What it Will Take to Win


To find out more about the TDU Convention, call us at 313-842-2600 or click here and we’ll get in touch with you.

Click here to register for the TDU Convention.

Issues: TDU
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Golden Gate Bridge Workers To Hold One Day Strike Next Friday

Current News - Fri, 10/10/2014 - 09:24

Golden Gate Bridge Workers To Hold One Day Strike Next Friday

A group of Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District workers comprised of mechanics, servicers and dispatchers announced plans this afternoon to go on a one-day strike over contract negotiations next Friday that will stop bus service between the North Bay and San Francisco.

Employees of the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District and their supporters gathered near St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco near the Golden Gate Bridge this afternoon to announce their decision to hold a one-day strike next week.

The strike is the third by members of the Golden Gate Bridge Labor Coalition. A union of machinists held a strike on Sept. 16 that did not affect transit service and ferryboat captains held a strike on Sept. 26 that halted ferry service that day.

Tim Jenkins, a labor representative of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 856, said the District’s bus workers, servicers, mechanics and dispatchers work hard and fear that the new contract proposed by the District will deprive them of quality, affordable health insurance.

Jenkins said that the District is trying to push workers into paying into high deductible health insurance plans.

According to Jenkins, the proposed health insurance coverage in the new contract would cause employees to stay “one car accident away from bankruptcy.”

Doug Michener, a dispatcher employed by the District for the past five years, said today that he would be directly impacted by an increase in the cost of workers’ health insurance plans.

Michener, a Novato resident, said that he currently pays about 10 percent of his medical costs out of pocket, while the District pays 90 percent.

Under the proposed contract, which would begin July 1, 2017, his out of pocket expense would be about 40 percent with the District paying the other 60 percent of the cost.

He said the District is trying to pressure workers to opt in to a high-deductible plan or it will raise workers’ premiums by at least double their current rates.

Michener said that a lot of his friends depend on the bus to get around and that a strike is the last thing he wants to see happen.

“Just like everyone else, we’re trying to have affordable healthcare,” Michener said.

Lisa Maldonado, executive director of the North Bay Labor Council, stood with the workers this afternoon and offered her support.

She said blue-collar workers are already worried about their finances and that employers who suggest raising healthcare costs for employees need “to stop aggressively taking away from workers.”

Golden Gate Bridge Labor Coalition co-chair Alex Tonisson, representing 13 unions totaling about 450 bridge, bus and ferry workers, said the strike would begin at about 3 a.m. on Oct. 17 and remain in place for the remainder of that day.

He said bus drivers have promised to honor the picket lines, and that while all union members will stand in solidarity, the strike is not expected to impact ferry or bridge service.

Tonisson said that the high-deductible, or Bronze health care plan under Covered California, is a “death-spiral” that sets up workers to pay less now but far more after 2018.

In 2018, under the Affordable Care Act, a 40 percent excise tax will be imposed on employer-sponsored plans over $10,200, Tonisson said.

The proposed contract would be “gutting” the workers’ health care plans, Tonisson said.

Bridge district spokeswoman Priya Clemens said the District’s contribution of more than 95 percent of its’ employees’ health care benefits package, “is significantly more generous than most public agencies in the Bay Area.”

Clemens said that the District doesn’t want any more strikes and has reached out to state mediation services to request help in negotiating a contract, but she said that the coalition has refused to engage in mediation.

The announcement of the strike comes after machinists and ferryboat captains each staged one-day strikes last month.

The issues that have been standing in the way of resolving the contract dispute between the bridge district and the 13-union coalition vary from union to union but cover issues such as wages, compensation for training and the proposed high-deductible health care insurance plan, among others.

“The coalition as a whole is having problems with the district,” Tonisson said.

He said the district has projected surplus revenue of roughly $138 million over the next five years.

Clemens, however, said the district’s five-year revenue projection “is actually a deficit, not a surplus. It’s a deficit of $33 million.”

The strike comes is the latest labor action by the Coalition of union workers in contract dispute with the bridge district that has left employees without a contract since July 1.

Hannah Albarazi, Bay City News

Tags: atugolden gate bridge
Categories: Labor News

Zionist Organization of America head calls for arrest of Block the Boat protesters

Current News - Fri, 10/10/2014 - 00:27

Zionist Organization of America head calls for arrest of Block the Boat protesters
Submitted by Charlotte Silver on Wed, 10/08/2014 - 22:36

Activists have repeatedly prevented Israeli shipping vessels from unloading their cargo in US ports since August. (Daniel Arauz/Flickr)
Activists preventing the unloading of Israeli cargo ships at the Oakland Port in protest of violations of Palestinian rights have drawn the ire of Israel advocacy groups.

Last week, Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, wrote a letter to the chief of the Oakland Police Department, Sean Whent, chastizing his department for failing to “intervene and ensure that the Zim ship could unload its cargo.”

“Anti-Semitic protesters have been blocking vessels owned by Zim Integrated Shipping Ltd., an Israel-based shipping company, from docking at the Port of Oakland, and preventing dockworkers from unloading the cargo,” Klein complains in his letter. “This problem occurred for several days in August and it occurred again last week.”

Klein’s letter, excerpts of which were printed in The Jerusalem Post, seizes on a dockworkers union’s characterization of the protesters as “threatening,” and questions why the police did not do more to squelch the demonstration.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union stated after the last protest on 27 September that “Longshoremen and Clerks trying to report to work were threatened physically at some points of ingress and their personal vehicles were physically blocked.”

The Zionist Organization of America’s Klein writes:

“Why didn’t the police intervene and ensure that international commerce could proceed unimpeded? Why didn’t the police arrest the protesters, who may well have violated the law by physically threatening dockworkers, physically blocking personal vehicles, and preventing the ship from docking and unloading as authorized?”

Klein’s public relations manager declined to give The Electronic Intifada the full letter because he did not want his client to be “conveyed in any negative context.”

JCRC intervention

In August, another Israel advocacy group, the Jewish Community Relations Council(JCRC), issued a press statement condemning the port protests as an “overt expression of extremism” that “unjustly singles out” Israel.

A public records request to the City of Oakland reveals that the port managers met with leaders of the JCRC on 31 July in preparation for the protests scheduled for August.

Emails between Myrna David, JCRC East Bay Regional Director, and city councilmember Dan Kalb indicate the latter was invited but declined to attend the meeting.

Following the meeting, David wrote to Kalb, “We got the impression OPD [Oakland Police Department] is expected on the scene and should be well prepared.”

Rabbi Doug Kahn, executive director of the JCRC, was included on the email thread. Kahn is a leading anti-Palestinian voice in the Bay Area and vocal opponent of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

The JCRC and Kahn have a long history of organizing against and stifling Palestine support work in the Bay Area, as has been documented previously by The Electronic Intifada.

In 2006, the JCRC characterized a proposed mural at San Francisco State University, designed to honor the late Palestinian scholar Edward Said, as “threatening” to Jewish students on campus. The group helped pressure the university administration to censor the imagery in the mural.

Using a similar charge, in 2007, the JCRC worked with the Anti-Defamation League to pressure the San Francisco Arts Commission to compel artists working on a local mural to eliminate Palestinian symbols from it.

And in 2011, the JCRC played a central role in pressuring the Museum of Children’s Art (MOCHA) in Oakland to cancel an exhibition of drawings done by Palestinian children from Gaza which Kahn said could “potentially create an unsafe atmosphere for Jewish children.”

The JCRC did not respond to The Electronic Intifada’s request for comment.

Port shutdowns

Seeking the intervention of the police and local government leaders, port representatives have expressed concern that the site has become a regular target for political protests since the Occupy movement emerged in late 2011.

On 8 August, the president of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association wrote to a handful of state leaders, including Governor Jerry Brown and the Oakland mayor, that:

“The Port has become a focal point for demonstrators as an outgrowth of two prior shutdowns of the Port due to the Occupy Movement. The Port of Oakland was the only port in the United States in which operations were halted due to the Occupy demonstrations. Given that well publicized success, the Port of Oakland is now a constant target of those who want to amplify their voice regarding their opinions of any number of issues.”

Robert Bernardo, spokesperson for the Port of Oakland, told The Electronic Intifada that he was not aware of any ongoing conversations with community groups such as the JCRC, but emphasized that the port is “working closely with law enforcement and our business partners to ensure flow of commerce continues even in the case of a peaceful protest.”

“We at the Port of Oakland support free speech, but our main priority is to keep goods flowing,” Bernardo said.

When asked to describe how they would “ensure” that, Bernardo conceded that it was not possible to predict or go into the details.

Undeterred protests

Activists in California prevented two vessels belonging to Israel’s largest shipping company from unloading any of its cargo at the Oakland port for two weekends in the last two months, and the Block the Boat Coalition is planning another protest for 25 October.

The coalition which planned August’s protest that brought out thousands of demonstrators to the port and prevented the ship’s unloading for four consecutive days say they hope to build a broad base of support for the actions by strengthening ties between the workers and Palestine solidarity groups.

“The Zim Line reflects the huge flow of capital from Israel into the Bay Area and it is an opportunity for building a relationship between workers and Palestine solidarity activists,” Lara Kiswani, executive director of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center, said in August.

And despite the language used by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union in their 27 September statement, Block the Boat organizers have stressed their outreach to dock workers and organized labor for the protest later this month.

Contrary to some media reports as well as a statement issued by the ILWU, the repeat of the picket line last month was not organized by the same Block the Boat coalition which plannd the August action. A new group calling itself the “Stop Zim Action Committee” called for the picket line, and successfully convinced workers to abstain from working the Zim Line on the morning of 27 September.

ILWU has a long history of refusing to load ships from countries engaging in gross violations of human rights. In the 1930s, West Coast dockworkers refused to load and offload ships belonging to Italy after they invaded Ethiopia, and Japan after it invaded Manchuria.

In 1978 and 1980, ILWU refused to load military cargo headed for Chile and El Salvador, respectively. And in 1984, the union refused to unload a South African ship for eleven consecutive days.

Tags: Zim protestZionistsArrestStop Zim Action Committee
Categories: Labor News


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