Using SW to build solidarity

July 29, 2008

TWO WEEKS ago, a few of us set up a table outside the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) hall on the Seattle waterfront and sold Socialist Worker, as we do every other week.

That week, we were using an article to raise support and solidarity for the Seattle sprinkler fitters' strike ("Strike shuts down Seattle building sites"). Dozens of dockworkers found out about the strike as a result.

This morning on our sale, an ILWU Local 19 member and regular Socialist Worker reader told me that he loved the sprinkler fitters' article and hadn't heard about their strike until then.

He said that while the dockworkers are loading and unloading the ships, they all have walkie-talkies in order to coordinate the work. But the 30 or so workers on each channel also use them to simply chat with each other throughout the shift. The worker went on to describe how, two weeks prior, he read the strike article immediately and proposed to his co-workers that it be the topic of discussion for the day.

He gave everyone a rundown on the strike based on the article, and they were very excited by it. They all decided that they needed to support the strike by going out to the picket lines.

On Monday, they got out the pre-made ILWU signs that say "The ILWU supports [insert cause]." They wrote in "the sprinkler fitters' strike" and called the sprinkler fitters' union to find out where the pickets were. They quickly found out that the workers were voting on a new contract at that very moment (which was passed, and represents a victory for labor), but were nonetheless energized by the experience.

As the worker put it to me, "We're negotiating our own contract right now. We'll need the support of other workers and the only way to earn that is through supporting other union struggles. An injury to one is an injury to all...I just wanted to let you know that even the smallest pieces of sand [for example, selling papers on Friday mornings] can make important ripples." He then bought the current paper, thanked us for being out there and said he looked forward to seeing us again in two weeks.

Thanks to Socialist Worker, we're connecting workers and their struggles together--putting us in a much better position to rebuild a fighting (and much-needed) labor movement in this country. Keep up the great work!
Sam Bernstein, Seattle

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