deserves a real bout of chin scratching

By Owen Paine on Tuesday December 13, 2011 11:18 AM

"For the second time in a month, the Occupy movement called for mass action to shut down port operations.This time, the occupiers targeted the entire WestCoast. The Occupy Oakland General Assembly unanimously adopted a proposal November 18 calling for the "blockade and disruption of the economic apparatus of the 1% with a coordinated shutdown of ports on the entire West Coaston December 12." ...... Occupiers planned the shutdown without consulting with the union, and the ILWU put out a statement December 6 to its members and supporters disclaiming support for the action ...."The ILWU has a long history ofdemocracy," wrote ILWU President Bob McElrath...... "Part of that historic democracy is the hard-won right to chart our own course to victory.

Members of the Occupy movement interpreted the union's distancing itself as, at best, a legal safeguard against the fines that could result from a workstoppage that violates the contract's strike bar. At worst, they saw it as a product of the union movement's timidity, born of decades of retreat and identification with employer interests

ILWU members and officials expressed alarm at how theport shutdown was called and questioned why the Occupymovements called for action without consulting thepeople that action would affect most"

the story is complex that's clear enough and in general the possible uses of outside actors
as effective union proxy is also clear:

" An independently organized action could allow the ILWU to circumvent the legal minefield set in frontof its own membership"


obviously these collisions among the "people" should be avoided if possible and in this case
i'm not sure the action was so urgent it needed to come quickly......
as onne old hand is quoted saying " previous shutdowns took months to prepare...."

Comments (13)


An Open Letter from America’s Port Truck Drivers on Occupy the Ports :

"It may be tempting for media to ask questions about whether we support a shutdown, but there are no easy answers. Instead, we ask you, are you willing to listen and learn why a one-word response is impossible?"

Jesus H. Bicycle-Riding Motherfucking CHRIST.

They're worried about how they'd be affected by a port shutdown action? I thought they were supposed to be a goddamn' labor union.

Who'da thought that the biggest obstacle to the current struggle for workers' rights would be THE GODDAMN' UNIONS. Pussies.

That's unfair to kittens, Mike. Kittens will use their claws.

Al Schumann:

The equivocation can be viewed charitably, I believe. I offer this for argument: Blue collar USA has seen social justice movements melt away once they get a few ultimately empty concessions. Who's to say this movement is different?

That's a good call, Al. But, wouldn't OWS be less likely to melt away if organized labor kitted up for a fight alongside them?

Al Schumann:

Jack, I honestly don't know.

I think it's possible that participation by organized labor would, at this point, be harmful to OWS. The unions are so bought and sold that I'd rather see an internal rebellion there first, before they do anything. Of course, if they did start lending a hand, that could precipitate long needed changes.

Cutting my dithering short, if you pressed me on this, I'd swallow hard and say they should lend a hand.

I'm with Al, if that. Striking/blockading without the clear support of the workforce involved is nothing to take lightly. I also wonder what payoff OWS sees itself getting out of these actions. Risking labor and popular support is also nothing to take lightly.

Rightly or wrongly, the news coverage of this makes OWS look like a group willing to hurt workers' paychecks in order to make a seemingly unfocused and remote gesture.

Worth a chin scratch, indeed.

Isn't one of the promising aspects of OWS the possibility that it might remind the unions where they came from and what they abandoned when they knuckled under to the Second Red Scare and the business union regime?

Do the port closings help or harm that process?

I don't claim to know that answer, but I don't think it's easy, either way.

Chuckles the Bozo:

Never let the perfect be the enemy of the good!


For the record, as a participant in organizing and having dealt with many members of the union, I'd like to say that the union leadership itself was angry that they were not consulted first before the call for a west coast port blockade was called. The rank-and-file were ambivalent about not being consulted, but ultimately worked side-by-side with us to make the action work, and steadfastly said that no matter the way in which the action was decided, they would respect community picket lines.
This action was called both as a response to the police crackdown on the encampments as well as in solidarity with Port truckers in Oakland and Los Angeles as well as the struggles that the ILWU have had in Longview, Washington with EGT. Criag Merrilees, who claimed to be a spokesman of the union, is not a representative of member of the ILWU but is a staffer for the International. He was one of the worst offenders when it came to red-baiting Occupy Oakland as being out of touch with the community as well as the rank-and-file he claimed to represent, insinuating numerous times that anarchist fringe elements had called the action without talking to many other Occupiers and basically saying that this was something that the Union did not support.
As was explained to me by a longshoreman that day, technically, the union never took a vote on whether or not to support the action, so Merrilees had no business saying that the union did NOT support the action; rather, they were neutral and had not come to a decision on the issue.
As a frequent reader of all of the bloggers who commented here, I felt I had to try and give some background to this whole thing. hopefully I'll have more time in the future to interact more, but Occupy Oakland has in many ways Occupied my life.
A very good review of the action can be found at this blog from a participant:
And a radio Interview I was a part of highlights many of the things I talked about earlier:

Thanks for the update, Leo. Of course, when a union decides not to vote, that is one way of not approving something. We would let our enemies use that excuse, and the left needs to be better than the right, if it hopes to ever win. So, let's be honest, shall we? The union didn't approve the action.


i have been way from the site awhile....sorry

leo ritz-barr obviously gets the larger picture here

i found the pacifica broadcast very useful
and brother thomas was a marvel of clarity

if i had two cents to throw in here
i would
i don't so i won't

i'll say this though

Criag Merrilees,is precisely
the brand of tight assed union staff infection
that blocks off union progress

if he was ordered to disconnect the union from the action
he shit all over his union while doing it

the union of brother harry bridges
oughta chastise this puss filled prat



i think official actions here are obviously
not about approval but about connection

simple point:
legally enforceable contractual "obligations "

its fine for us outsiders
to council dialogue and
co ordinated pre meditation

but official connection...

obviously there is ample time
before the next occ port action
to resolve any and all emergent "contradictions"
between the occ and the ILWU

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