ILWU dissents from OWS general strike call?

Both the Bottom Line business blog at the San Francisco Chronicle and the On Deadline blog at USA Today make note of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union‘s apparent dissent from the Occupy Wall Street movement’s call for a West Coast Port Blockade on Monday Dec. 12. In a call to action, the Occupy movement states:

Why shut down the West Coast Ports?
The ports play a pivotal role in the flow and growth of capital for the 1% in this country and internationally. For that reason alone it is the ideal place to disrupt their profit machine. The workers on these ports have always understood that; they have consistently staged shutdowns for political reasons, honored community picket lines, and led the labor movement. A general disruption of commerce, in protest of the nationally coordinated attacks on Occupy movements alone is warranted, but additionally, the specifically targeted attacks on workers at these ports by the 1% further necessitate this call to action.

But ILWU president Robert McEllrath in a Dec. 6 letter to union locals apparently had some harsh words for the action call:

Support is one thing, organization from outside groups attempting to co-opt our struggle in order to advance a broader agenda is quite another… Any actions organized by outside groups, including the proposed Dec. 12 shutdown of various terminals on the West Coast, have not been vetted by our union’s democratically led process. Any decisions made by groups outside of the union’s democratic process do not hold water, regardless of the intent.

Bottom Line blogger Andrew S. Ross (who is also quoted by On Deadline) adds: “The Occupy movements that make a fetish of applying direct democracy and near absolute consensus to its own decision making might want to take note of that.”

But before pro-business bloggers gloat too much, it might be good to hear a little more from the ILWU. We note that the letter to the locals does not appear to be on the union’s website—while McEllrath’s Oct. 5 “Solidarity Statement in Support of ‘Occupy Wall Street’” is portrayed prominently on ILWU homepage.

The IndyBay website quotes dissident ILWU member Clarence Thomas speaking in support of the strike call. Unfortunately, the statement was picked up from the extremely problematic retro-Stalinists of Workers World. We do note that early reports that the ILWU had endorsed the Nov. 2 Oakland General Strike were seemingly proved false.

Occupy Oakland was evicted from its City Hall camp last month, although protests have continued in East Bay. Occupy San Francisco was evicted last night from Justin Herman Plaza on the Embarcadero, which is now secured by police. (Chronicle, Dec. 8) Occupy Los Angeles was evicted from its camp outside City Hall on Nov. 30, and is now preparing for a mobilization to shut the port at Long Beach. (LAist, Dec. 8; AP, Nov. 30) Seattle Central Community College has issued a deadline for Occupy Seattle protesters to leave the campus. (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Dec. 6) OWS informs us that an eviction of Occupy Boston is expected imminently, with a police deadline running out tonight. A report on PBS News Hour highlights the Occupy movements in San Diego, Boise and Oklahoma City, where encampments are hanging on despite police harassment.

See our last posts on the global econo-cataclysm and the Occupy movement.

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