Historic Victory at Oakland Port – Israeli Ship Blocked from Unloading
ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) 21 June 2010
In a historic action and unprecedented action today, over 800 labor and community activists blocked the gates of the Oakland docks in the early morning hours, prompting longshore workers to refuse to cross the picketlines where they were scheduled to unload an Israeli ship.
From 5:30 am to 9:30 am, a militant and spirited protest was held in front of four gates of the Stevedore Services of America, with people chanting non-stop, “Free, Free Palestine, Don’t Cross the Picket Line,” and “An injury to one is an injury to all, bring down the apartheid wall.”
Citing the health and safety provisions of their contract, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union workers refused to cross the picketline to report for duty.
Between 8:30 and 9:00 am, an emergency arbitration was conducted at the Maersk parking lot nearby, with an “instant” arbitrator called to the site to rule on whether the workers could refuse to cross the picketline without disciplinary measure.
At 9:15 a.m, after again reviewing the protests of hundreds at each gate, the arbitrator ruled in favor of the union that it was indeed unsafe for the workers to enter the docks.
To loud cheers of “Long Live Palestine!” Jess Ghannam of Free Palestine Alliance and Richard Becker of the ANSWER Coalition announced the victory. Ghannam said, “This is truly historic, never before has an Israeli ship been blocked in the United States!”
The news that a container ship from the Zim Israeli shipping line was scheduled to arrive in the Bay Area today has sparked a tremendous outpouring of solidarity for Palestine, especially in the aftermath of the Israeli massacre of volunteers bringing humanitarian aid to Gaza on May 31.
With 10 days advance notice of the ship’s arrival, the emergency “Labor/Community Committee in Solidarity with the Palestinian People” was set up. On Wednesday, some 110 people from unions and community came to help organize logistics, outreach and community support. Initiating organizations included the Al-Awda Palestine Right to Return Coalition, the ANSWER Coalition, the Bay Area Labor Chapter of USLAW and the Bay Area Labor Committee for Peace & Justice.
This week the San Francisco Labor Council and Alameda Labor Council passed resounding resolutions denouncing Israel’s blockade of Gaza. Both councils sent out public notices of the dock action.
The ILWU has a proud history of extending its solidarity to struggling peoples the world over. In 1984, as the Black masses of South Africa were engaged in an intense struggle against South African apartheid, the ILWU refused for a record-setting 10 days to unload cargo from the South African “Ned Lloyd” ship. Despite million-dollar fines imposed on the union, the longshore workers held strong, providing a tremendous boost to the anti-apartheid movement.
Today’s Oakland action, in the sixth largest port in the United States, is the first of several protests and work stoppages planned around the world, including Norway, Sweden and South Africa. It is sure to inspire others to do the same.
The goal is for a 24-hour shutdown of the docks where the Israeli ship is docked, so the protest is planned again for 4:30 p.m.
Message from the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions(PGFTU) to the San Francisco Bay Area trade unionists
To our respected sisters, brothers and comrades in the trade unions, labor councils and workers’ organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Since the beginning of the workers’ struggles in your country - the United States of America - international solidarity has been a constant part of workers’ organizing and struggle in solidarity with workers and people facing injustice everywhere in the world. We, the workers and the people of Palestine are suffering under oppression of the Israeli occupation of our land and people. This occupation began long ago, the longest-lasting occupation of the modern era.
As people who cherish life and wish to live in freedom, we look to and call upon our fellow workers of the world, particularly today our friends of truth, democracy and freedom in the San Francisco Bay Area to take a stand of courage alongside Palestinian workers to obtain justice and freedom for the workers and people of Palestine. We call upon you to support our struggle to obtain our liberty, practice our self-determination, and build a sovereign, democratic Palestine, like all other nations on earth.
Dear brothers and sisters, trade unionists, workers, and people of the San Francisco Bay Area, we remember and salute your historic and massive action on the docks in 1984, when you acted to boycott the apartheid regime in South Africa.
We look to you today from the Gaza Strip and all of Palestine, and call upon you to repeat that courageous stand today. This genuine solidarity is something we have longed for and expected. As you are responding to our appeal, we expected from you nothing less because of your history of defending the oppressed, including our people suffering under Israeli occupation, and your stand in opposition to the attack on the unarmed Gaza Freedom Flotilla seeking to deliver humanitarian assistance to the besieged Palestinian people in Gaza. Your action today is a milestone ininternational solidarity from honest and brave U. S. workers and trade unionists.
Greetings to you from the trade unionists and workers of Palestine. . . from the trade unionists and workers trapped in Gaza, seeking freedom. . . from the entire world who cares for humanity, freedom, justice, progress, and to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
On behalf of your brothers, sisters and comrades in the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions,
Executive Committee Member
Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions
Victoria Colliver,David R. Baker, San francisco Chronicle 21 June 2010
(06-21) 04:00 PDT OAKLAND -- Hundreds of demonstrators, condemning Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip, picketed at the Port of Oakland on Sunday and may have prevented an Israeli cargo ship from unloading for the day.
Mark Ostapika of San Francisco leads the crowd of pro-Palestinian supporters in a chant at the Port of Oakland to protest the Israeli Zim shipping line on Sunday.
Two shifts of longshoremen agreed not to cross the picket line, leaving nobody to unload the vessel.
"Our objective was to boycott this ship for 24 hours, and we succeeded in doing that," said Richard Becker, with the ANSWER Coalition, one of the groups that organized the protest.
The demonstrators first gathered before dawn at Berth 58, where a ship from Israel's Zim shipping line was scheduled to dock Sunday, first in the morning then in the afternoon, protesters said. It eventually arrived around 6 p.m., Becker said, but by that time the dockworkers had agreed not to show up to unload the vessel.
An Israeli Consulate representative disputed that account, saying the ship was always scheduled to arrive about 6 p.m.
International pressure to end the Gaza closure has increased since Israeli commandos stormed a flotilla of ships attempting to run the blockade on May 31, killing nine people.
Israel formally announced on Sunday it would ease its blockade of Gaza, allowing more goods to enter the impoverished area. Israel said it would expand operations at the land crossings already operating to enable processing of "a significantly greater volume of goods" and "the expansion of economic activity."
More than 500 people showed up about 5:30 a.m. Sunday to begin the protest, according to police estimates. By around 10 a.m. the crowd dispersed, but about 200 protesters returned in the afternoon when the second shift of dockworkers were scheduled to work.
Becker said some workers showed up for the morning shift, but virtually none did for the second. All agreed not to unload the ship or cross the picket lines, citing concern for their personal safety.
"I want the Palestinian people to have peace and land. They have been suffering for 60 years, and it's time for them to have justice," said Marina Gutierrez of Kensington, a demonstrator who showed up both in the morning and the afternoon.
In the afternoon, two Israel supporters stood across the street from the pro-Palestinian demonstrators waving Israeli and American flags.
"Israel is a democracy, just like America, and Israel is faced with a fight for its life," said Faith Metzer of El Cerrito.
"Everywhere we went (in Gaza) the same question was on every body's lips - 'You are here but where are the Arabs?' One little girl said to me 'where is this Arab world that they teach us about in school? Where is this Ummah that they talk to us about on Fridays? Why did they leave us alone?'. That's what she said to me, with tears in her eyes 'why did they leave us alone?' I had to turn my face away from her when she said it, and I'm not an Arab, I had to turn away.. I couldn't face her in the face of such a question.."