The Charleston Five need our support
June 8, 2001 | Page 4
Dear Socialist Worker,
Even here in Atlanta, you get the feeling that the June 9 march in Columbia, S.C., to support the Charleston Five will be tremendous.
The Charleston Five are members of the International Longshoremen's Association (ILA) who were attacked last January by 600 cops in riot gear while peacefully protesting a ship using scab labor. The police singled out five leaders from the group of 150 picketers and arrested them on felony charges of inciting and planning to riot.
What makes this case so important is that it brings together the struggle for workers' rights as well as the fight against police brutality and racism.
Most Charleston dockworkers are Black, and many have been involved in the fight against the Confederate flag that flies over the capitol building in Columbia.
As Southern governors compete to attract foreign investment, they figure the state that can offer the cheapest labor is the state that can attract the most investment. So far, South Carolina has been successful in the bidding war and aims to keep it that way.
"It is significant that [Local 1422] is under attack because they are living proof that unionization is the best antipoverty program ever created," said Ken Riley, president of ILA Local 1422. "You have workers with a decent standard of living precisely because they are unionized and organized."
Though Atlanta is about a four-hour ride from Columbia, the Atlanta Labor Council and Georgia AFL-CIO have reserved about 10 buses that people can ride to the protest for free!
I'm involved in organizing for this event in my union, and the hope is that we can get some union members who haven't been very active in the past to get involved.
With a good showing of solidarity, we can prove that we can fight back against the bosses and their police henchmen. And we can also energize and organize newer activists for fights to come.
A member of Teamsters Local 728, Atlanta
"Solidarity can defeat their greed"
Dear Socialist Worker,
June 9 will mark an important day for workers in the South.
Thousands of labor, student and community activists are expected to march and rally in Columbia, S.C., to defend the Charleston Five.
And the struggle of the Charleston dockworkers has inspired activists here in sleepy Winston-Salem as well. We have been spreading the word about the march through posters and leaflets.
Nearly everyone we speak to is horrified to hear about the attacks on the Charleston dockworkers. At United Parcel Service hubs in the area, many workers have expressed interest in going to the march.
While the state AFL-CIO is sponsoring buses to take people to the demonstration, they have done little so far to either publicize it or to build broader support.
But this is an important first step--a strong showing of solidarity on June 9 will send a message to bosses and politicians that we won't sit by while workers rights are trampled.
Our solidarity can defeat their greed!
Ganesh Lal, Winston-Salem, N.C.