25,000 dock workers in 29 ports across the US went on strike today, to protest the war in Iraq. Meanwhile, in Iraq, dockers stopped work for an hour in a show of international solidarity.
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union declared the day as "a day for union business" for workers at all 29 ports on the west coast. This may be the beginning of a record setting anti-war action, since the vast majority of supplies and munitions for the American government's current wars are shipped from the 29 ports on the West Coast. All 29 were closed today.
The decision to strike on May 1st against the war was taken democratically by the rank and file of the ILWU. Employers had been notified of the strike in advance, but refused to accommodate the union’s request, instead trying to get court backing for a ban.
Truckers in Washington, DC were also on strike today, protesting both fuel prices and continued American involvement in Iraq. They rallied today calling for the soldiers to be bought home immediately.
This is not the first time American dockers have walked off the job for political reasons, previously taking action in support of Mumia Abu-Jamal and the Liverpool Dockers.
While actions were taken by American workers, workers in Iraq also stopped work today in the ports of Umm Qasr and Khor Al Zubair as part of their protest against both the war and attacks on union rights in Iraq. The General Union of Port Workers in Iraq issued a statement on the 29th saying:
Dear Brothers and Sisters of ILWU in California
The courageous decision you made to carry out a strike on May Day to protest against the war and occupation of Iraq advances our struggle against occupation to bring a better future for us and for the rest of the world as well.
We are certain that a better world will only be created by the workers and what you are doing is an example and proof of what we say. The labor movement is the only element in the society that is able to change the political equations for the benefit of mankind. We in Iraq are looking up to you and support you until the victory over the US administration's barbarism is achieved.
Over the past five years the sectarian gangs who are the product of the occupation, have been trying to transfer their conflicts into our ranks. Targeting workers, including their residential and shopping areas, indiscriminately using all sorts of explosive devices, mortar shells, and random shooting, were part of a bigger scheme that was aiming to tear up the society but they miserably failed to achieve their hellish goal. We are struggling today to defeat both the occupation and sectarian militias' agenda.
The pro-occupation government has been attempting to intervene into the workers affairs by imposing a single government-certified labor union. Furthermore it has been promoting privatization and an oil and gas law to use the occupation against the interests of the workers.
We the port workers view that our interests are inseparable from the interests of workers in Iraq and the world; therefore we are determined to continue our struggle to improve the living conditions of the workers and overpower all plots of the occupation, its economic and political projects.
Let us hold hands for the victory of our struggle.
Long live the port workers in California!
Long live May Day!
Long live International solidarity!
Another statement was released today from an even wider cross-section of the Iraqi labour movement.