Dockworkers plan antiwar action

By Lee Sustar

WEST COAST longshore workers are gathering support for their decision to stop work May 1 to protest the U.S. war in Iraq.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) voted to use a clause in their contract that allows them to shut down the docks for union business--as it did during the protests at the meeting of the World Trade Organization in Seattle in 1999. This time, the ILWU is voicing its members' opposition to the war.

The head of the employers' Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) announced in March that management would reject the union's request to shut down the ports for eight hours during first shift, rather than second shift as is customary.

But the ILWU is mobilizing for the event anyway, and has gotten international backing. "The decision of the ILWU to use this May Day as an anti-war protest will go down in the annals of workers' history, and I congratulate you, your union and all the members for making such a stand," wrote Len McCluskey, assistant general secretary of the British union UNITE, in a letter to ILWU President Robert McElrath.

Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney also offered her support in an open letter to the ILWU.

"While many unions pass resolution after resolution while doing little to actually stop the bloodshed, for generations the ILWU has shown that we can resist the war-mongering corporate politicians, and their profiteering attempts to divide the labor movement and weaken our capacity to organize and resist their destructive actions," she wrote.

In San Francisco, the Port Workers' May Day Organizing Committee has called for support for the action on these demands: an end to the war, the immediate withdrawal of troops, opposition to scapegoating immigrants, health care for all, funding for schools and housing and a defense of civil liberties and workers' rights.