No peace, no work - Page 2

Union shuts down West Coast ports to protest Iraq War, but the media misses the historic story

In fact, the banner leading the ILWU procession down the Embarcadero and into Justin Herman Plaza in San Francisco read, "An injury to one is an injury to all." That theme of solidarity — among all workers, American and Iraqi, legal and illegal — was laced through all the speeches of the day.

Joining labor leaders on the podium were antiwar movement stalwarts such as Cindy Sheehan, who is running an independent campaign to unseat Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, now a target of the movement for continuing to fund the war.

"Nancy Pelosi wants to give George [W.] Bush more money [for the Iraq War] than he even asked for," Sheehan said, drawing a loud, sustained "boo!" from the crowd. At the afternoon rallies at Dolores Park and Civic Center Plaza, which focused on immigration issues, the war was also a big target, with signs such as "Stop the ICE raids, Stop the War," and "Si se puede, the workers struggle has no borders."

Even for protest-happy San Francisco, it was an unusually spirited May Day, with more than 1,000 people appearing at each of the four main rallies and two big marches. There were lots of smaller actions as well, including demonstrations at the ICE offices and Marine recruiting center, and activists from the Freedom From Oil Campaign disrupting a Commonwealth Club speech by General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner.

But it was the port shutdown that was unique. Annually the 29 West Coast ports process 368 million tons of goods, averaging more than 1 million tons a day moved by 15,000 registered ILWU workers and a number of other "casuals." Eight percent of that comes in and out of Oakland, but West Coast trade affects business throughout the country — as many as 8 million other workers come in contact with some aspect of that trade.

Mike Zampa, spokesperson for APL — the eighth-largest container shipping company in the world, with ports in Oakland, Los Angeles, and Seattle — told us, "Over a long period of time a shutdown like this does have an impact on the US economy."

More port shutdowns are possible, Heyman said. But he hopes the action inspires other workers and activists to increase the pressure for an end to the war.

"We are taking action to swing the pendulum back the other way," Heyman told us during the march. "We are stopping work to stop the war."

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