ILWU Shutting Down West Coast Ports to Protest War

On May 1, 29 U.S. Pacific ports will cease operation during the 8-hour day-shift as members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) hold demonstrations in protest of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The ILWU, which represents 25,000 dockworkers on the Pacific coast, has sent a formal letter asking other AFL-CIO unions to join the protest.

“If we can do something so dramatic as to shut down the ports on the west coast, I think people will realize how important” opposition to the war is, said Jack Heyman, an executive board member of San Francisco’s ILWU Local 10, and prominent anti-war activist.

The protest will occur during at a delicate time for ILWU members.

On March 17 the union will begin negotiations with shippers for a new six-year, coast-wide labor contract.

Spokesmen representing shippers, as well as the union, played down the significance of the planned stoppage.

Steve Getzug, spokesman for the Pacific Maritime Association, a shippers’ group, said shipping company officials were too busy preparing for contract negotiations to pay much attention to the protest.

Meanwhile, ILWU spokesman Craig Merilees said, “It’s been agreed that on the first of May the union will exercise its right to hold a meeting on that day. On the day shift, and local unions will have the opportunity, if they wish, to take some of that time to speak out against the war if they feel so inclined.”

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