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PORTSIDE  August 2010, Week 2

PORTSIDE August 2010, Week 2

Subject:

Around the World, Dockworkers Blockade Israeli Ships

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Mon, 9 Aug 2010 21:43:50 -0400

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Around the World, Dockworkers Blockade Israeli Ships

By Mike Elk

August 4, 2010, In These Times

http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/6286/dockworkers_around_the_world_create_a_worker_blockade_of_israeli_ships/

On June 20, ILWU Local 10 dockworkers in Oakland, Calif.,
refused to unload an Israeli Zim Lines ship for 24 hours.
Their protest was supported by more than 800 rallying local
activists, the San Francisco Labor Council and the Alameda
County Labor Council (the equivalent of local branches of the
AFL-CIO).

Workers around the world have been joining the call to
blockade Israeli ships from being unloaded, in essence
creating their own blockade to protest the blockade of food
and humanitarian supplies Israel has placed on Palestinians
in the Gaza strip. On June 7, by the Palestinian General
Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU), the General Union of
Palestinian Workers (GUPW), the Federation of Independent
Trade Unions (IFU), and several other organizations produced
a call for dockworkers to refuse to unload Israeli ships.

Their statement, released after the flotilla massacre that
killed nine people earlier this year, said:

    Gaza today has become the test of our universal morality
    and our common humanity. During the South African anti-
    apartheid struggle, the world was inspired by the brave
    and principled actions of dockworkers unions who refused
    to handle South African cargo, contributing significantly
    to the ultimate fall of apartheid. Today, we call on you,
    dockworkers unions of the world, to do the same against
    Israel's occupation and apartheid.

Recognizing how similar longshoreman boycotts had helped
bring down the apartheid, the Congress of South African Trade
Unions called for a boycott of unloading all Israeli ships.
The Western Australian members of the Australian Maritime
Union have also responded to the boycott, refusing to unload
Israeli cargo, as have the Turkish dockworkers union Liman-
Is.

There have been additional reports of solidarity by
individuals unions. The Swedish Dockworkers Union and the
unionized Longshoreman in the Port of Cochin, India, have
also refused to unload Israeli ships. (See Greg Dropkin's
in-depth piece on this uprising of dock workers).

The Israeli assault on the Gaza flotilla has been condemned
by the International Longshoreman Union (ILWU) and the global
labor movement, including the rival dockworker global union
federations-the International Dockworkers Council (IDC), the
International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), However,
neither the U.S.-based ILWU or either of the two rival
international confederations responded to the Palestinian
call to refuse to unload Israeli ship. In other words, The
responses to the Palestinian call for a boycott came not from
big unions or confederations, but from the workers
themselves.

The ILWU has a slogan of 'An Injury to One is An Injury to
All." By threatening to not unload ships, dockworkers have
long been able to bring to a half the commerce of nations
involved in human rights abuses.

In 1933, after the invasion of China by the Japanese and the
Rape of Nanking, in which Japanese systematically raped
80,000 women, dockworkers on the West Coast refused to unload
Japanese ships. Likewise when the stories of the holocaust
began to become public knowledge in the 1930s, dockworkers
would refuse to unload German ships in protest. In the 1980s,
dockworkers around the world would refuse to unload South
African ships in a sign of solidarity. On May 1, 2008,
members of the Longshoremen Union in the United States
refused to unload any ship in protest of the Iraq war and the
atrocities being committed against Iraqi workers.

Dockworkers blockades stems from this tradition, but also
from the involvement in helping facilitate the Gaza flotilla.
The Swedish Dockworkers union, in conjunction with a Greek
union, helped purchase the flotilla vessel the 'Sofia.'
Longshoremen union members provided key logistical support
for several of the flotilla's activities (In These Times
covered this story back in June).

The lesson is that solidarity, even with something as obscure
to most worker's daily lives such as Gaza Flotilla, is not
something that union organizers or big international union
confederation need to create a sense of in workers. Most of
these solidarity activities weren't coordinated by big
international union confederation, but by individual unions
and workers themselves. Solidarity is something most workers
feel natural.

As corporations become more global, more and more workers
across the globe are working together to take multinational
corporations or international regimes. (as the example of
foreign bank workers helping U.S. workers organize shows).
Solidarity is labor's strongest weapon, important not just on
the local picket line, but on the global picket line as labor
takes on multinational corporations and repressive regimes.

_____________________________________________

Portside aims to provide material of interest
to people on the left that will help them to
interpret the world and to change it.

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