Protesters at the port of Oakland. Photo: Block the Boat Coalition. – By Transport Workers Solidarity Committee Major Victory Against Israel Apartheid Regime: Zim Lines Ship Piraeus Forced To Leave Port Of Oakland After Labor – Community Pickets and IL …
Major Victory Against Israel Apartheid Regime: Zim Lines Ship Piraeus Forced To Leave Port Of Oakland After Labor – Community Pickets and ILWU Refusal To Work
In a major defeat for the Israeli government controlled Zim Lines, their regularly scheduled ship Piraeus was forced to leave the port of Oakland on August 19th, 2014 without the ship being worked after a march of thousands of people to the Port Berth 57 on August 16th which was organized by AROC, the Arab Resources Organizing Committee AROC and picketing at Pier 57.
The labor community picket supported by the Transport Workers Solidarity Committee and Occupy Oakland continued for three days at shifts while the ship was in port. This is the first time in history, an Israeli controlled ship has been forced out of a port and this will cost the shipping line millions of dollars as shipping customers will have to be compensated and cargo that was destined to the bay area will now have to be shipped by train or trucks. They also will likely have solidarity pickets if the ship tries to work at Los Angeles where it is now heading according to reports.
This solidarity picket followed the call by the Palestinian unions for an international boycott against the Israeli government for its massacre and destruction of Gaza which has also been backed by the United States with billions of dollars and US warplanes and bombs. This has been endorsed by the entire US Senate and Congress despite the massive war crimes conducted by Israel.
Many picketers, marchers and protesters made a direct connection with the massive use of police in Ferguson, Missouri and the role of Israel in training thousands of US police under the “Urban Shield Program” which seeks to militarize the US police forces with military weapons including tanks and drones. The growing repression of the Black and Latino communities is exposing not only the flagrant racism but a growing class conflicts which the US capitalists and imperialists are provoking in order to defend their system.
ILWU Local 10 is majority a Black workforce and as the president Melvin McKay said, “the last time he had a discussion with the police he ended up in a holding cell.”
The action by ILWU Local 10 and Local 34 to stand by because of the picket lines and to challenge the use of Mayor Quan’s Oakland police and the Alameda County Deputies to force them to work under armed guards is a significant defeat for not only the Zim Lines but SSA port operator owned by Goldman Sacks and the Pacific Maritime Association PMA.
The ILWU 20,000 longshore workers have been without a contract since July 1, 2014 and the PMA is demanding that they take major concessions due to increased healthcare costs under Obamacare which the bosses want the ILWU members to pay for. The offensive by the PMA and the grain shippers has also led to concession contracts in the Northwest at grain facilities in Oregon and Washington.
ILWU Local 10 and Local 34 are working without a contract and Zim Lines/SSA and the PMA as a result were unable to call in an arbitrator that would have likely ordered the longshore workers back to work. This action has also won the union considerable support in the community for their action of solidarity.
Hundreds of police were mobilized on Monday morning to coerce the pickets and 3 were cited and released. This however did not deter the picketing and it grew to 50 or 60 on Tuesday night. Pickets waited until 9:00PM until all the crews who were standing by were sent home. In Oakland where there is a mayoral election Mayor Quan supported the use of the police and no candidates supported the action against the Israeli owned ship.
The Transport Workers Solidarity Committee had called for picketing on continuous picketing at the shift changes and there were enough pickets to stop the work at Birth 57 because of the decision of the ILWU not to work under police guards and to support the pickets. Rank and file longshore workers played a key role in building support, education and unity.
In 1934, eighty years ago two strike supporters of the union were murdered by police on the streets of San Francisco leading to the general strike and the union has a history of opposing police repression including work action to protest the murder of Oscar Grant and also action to call for the release of Mumia Abu-Jamal. This solidarity action is an important example of international labor action. Longshore unions around the world are being urged to take similar action against all Israeli shipping and airline traffic.
South African COSATU has also said they support the call by the Palestinian unions but as of yet no action has been taken to shutdown Israeli Zim Line and El Al airlines which regularly lands in South Africa. Only labor action has the power to shut the apartheid regime down and working people worldwide have the power to take this action.
Now is the time as well to organize to picket other Zim ships that will be arriving in Oakland next week and to stop all Zim Line ships on the entire coast. The full schedule of Zim Lines is here.
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