Iraqi port workers to strike in support of ILWU

From the General Union of Port Workers in Iraq, via US Labor Against the War, April 29:

May Day Message from the Port Workers in Iraq to West Coast dock workers in the US
In solidarity with the ILWU, the General Union of Port Workers in Iraq will stop work for one hour on May Day in the ports of Umm Qasr and Khor Al Zubair.

Dear Brothers and Sisters of ILWU in California,

The courageous decision you made to carry out a strike on May Day to protest against the war and occupation of Iraq advances our struggle against occupation to bring a better future for us and for the rest of the world as well.

We are certain that a better world will only be created by the workers and what you are doing is an example and proof of what we say. The labor movement is the only element in the society that is able to change the political equations for the benefit of mankind. We in Iraq are looking up to you and support you until the victory over the US administration’s barbarism is achieved.

Over the past five years the sectarian gangs who are the product of the occupation, have been trying to transfer their conflicts into our ranks. Targeting workers, including their residential and shopping areas, indiscriminately using all sorts of explosive devices, mortar shells, and random shooting, were part of a bigger scheme that was aiming to tear up the society but they miserably failed to achieve their hellish goal. We are struggling today to defeat both the occupation and sectarian militias’ agenda.

The pro-occupation government has been attempting to intervene into the workers affairs by imposing a single government-certified labor union. Furthermore it has been promoting privatization and an oil and gas law to use the occupation against the interests of the workers.

We the port workers view that our interests are inseparable from the interests of workers in Iraq and the world; therefore we are determined to continue our struggle to improve the living conditions of the workers and overpower all plots of the occupation, its economic and political projects.

Let us hold hands for the victory of our struggle.

Long live the port workers in California!

Long live May Day!

Long live International solidarity!

The General Union of Port Workers in Iraq
An Affiliate Union with General Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq (GFWCUI)

See our last posts on Iraq, the labor struggle and the civil resistance.

  1. ILWU shuts West Coast ports to protest Iraq occupation
    From East Bay Business Times, May 1:

    All activities at the Port of Oakland, the nation’s fourth-busiest container port, ground to a halt Thursday after a one-day strike was called by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.

    It was part of a larger shutdown of 29 West Coast ports to protest the continuing war and occupation of Iraq by the United States military… ILWU officials said more than 25,000 longshore workers at ports from Southern California to Washington state participated in the strike…

    “Longshore workers are standing down on the job and standing up for America,” Bob McEllrath, ILWU International president, said in a statement.

    “We’re supporting the troops and telling politicians in Washington that it’s time to end the war in Iraq.”

    Pacific Maritime Association officials called the ILWU’s work stoppage “illegal” and in defiance of an independent arbitrator’s order for longshore workers to report to work as usual Thursday. They also claimed union officials may use work slowdowns to “leverage contract negotiations” two months before the current contract between ILWU and the association is scheduled to expire.

    “Shutting down the ports in defiance of the contract and the arbitrator’s order in no way benefits an already-fragile U.S. economy,” said Steve Getzug, an association spokesman. “We have a lot of serious issues to resolve at the bargaining table, and the nation cannot afford uncertainty about the reliability of the West Coast ports.”

    The ports of Tacoma and Seattle were also shut down for the day (Tacoma News Tribune, May 2), as were Los Angeles (the nation’s busiest), San Diego and Long Beach. (Reuters, May 1)

    See our last post on the anti-war effort.

  2. Iraq’s civil resistance hails ILWU action
    At a mass May Day gathering in central Baghdad, Iraq Freedom Congress president Samir Adel broke the news of the dock workers strike on the US West Coast to a storm of applause. The march was attended by several hundred from such organizations as the Iraq Freedom Congress, the General Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq, the Federation of Arab Workers, the Union of Independent Democrats, and the Worker-communist Party of Iraq. Hundreds of banners proclaimed slogans such as “No Shiite, No Sunni, Ours is a human identity,” “No to occupation, No to sectarian gangs, Long live workers’ rule,” and “Long live May Day, We struggle for enactment of a libertarian Labor Law.”

    Before the end of the event, police informed march leaders of an explosive device that was placed in a bag set to attack the gathering and asked the participants to vacate the venue. The participants marched out chanting slogans denouncing the occupation and sectarian gangs. (IFC Update, May 12)

    (Translations from the Arabic as provided by the IFC. Note that “libertarian” is being used here in the old sense, of “liberatory” or “non-authoritarian”—not in the contemporary ideological sense of the free-market right, obviously.)