Update 1:42 PM Pacific – Despite push-back from union leaders and the management at the Port of Oakland, rank and file longshoremen are adamant that many longshoremen decided not to work today and disrupted work at the Port of Oakland today, in solidarity with the general strike called by the Occupy Oakland protesters.
Richard Washington, a longshoreman who refused work today, told Truthout about his intentions. “This wasn't ordered or suggested by the union leaders, the rank and file workers decided to not work today in support of Occupy Oakland. I am one of the longshoremen who did not take a job. The majority of the longshoremen at the hiring hall this morning decided not to take jobs. For the most part it was longshoremen walking off in solidarity with the general strike,” adding “tonight, there will be a picket line and I don't think any longshoremen will cross the picket line.”
Update 12:09 PM Pacific – After a very slow start because of an apparent wildcat strike by rank-and-file workers, the Port of Oakland is apparently back up and running, though much slower than normal.
Anthony Leviege, a dockworker at the port says that the port is currently running “between 40 and 50 percent,” after a slow start this morning. Leviege said he took to the microphone at the dispatch hall this morning to encourage fellow port workers to take the day off. “I said 'The world is watching Oakland and it's our obligation to be responsible for the people and the city of Oakland,' then I asked them to 'do the right thing,'” implying that workers should take the day off in support of Occupy Oakland's call for a general strike.
Leviege told Truthout that the port is now operational, but running at 40-50 percent capacity because of a continued labor shortage. He said that the dispatchers probably called in other port workers because when he left the dispatch hall, there were still about 50 jobs unfilled, significantly disrupting normal operations at the port.
“This is a success for the rank and file, given how short the time frame was. This partial shutdown was a result of just word of mouth and a leaflet,” Leviege added.
9:25 AM Pacific – Jack Heyman, a recently retired business agent for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union local 10, drove through the Port of Oakland and called in the following statement to Truthout at 9:25 AM Pacific time:
“The port of Oakland is effectively shut down. None of the ships are being worked. There is limited trucking activity by non-union workers but the port is effectively shut down. Trucks waiting to pick up containers are backed up over a mile,” Heyman said. The truck backup was confirmed by the Oakland Tribune.
According to Heyman, this partial shutdown was initiated by the rank-and-file workers at the port, in solidarity with the call for a general strike by the Occupy Oakland protesters. The union's official position on the strike call was to work in the morning and then join the demonstrations in the evening, but according to Heyman, the rank and file decided to vote with their feet and not fill key jobs at the port this morning.
Craig Merrilees, the spokesman for the Longshore union at the Port of Oakland told the Associated Press that no official strike was called by the union leadership, and no strike can be officially sanctioned by the union under the terms of their contract. He said that several dozen of the over 300 workers did not show up for work although many others did.
“Rank and filers told people this morning not to take work. Key jobs were not filled but some other jobs were,” Heyman said, resulting in what he described as an “effective shutdown.”
“This is an example of the consciousness of the San Francisco ports union, which has a history of solidarity actions with the global labor movement,” Heyman added.
Heyman was in New York City earlier this week, where he announced to the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators that the Port of Oakland workers would attempt to shut down the port. The video of this announcement is here.
[Full Disclosure: The author of this piece has been involved in some organizing aspects of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations.]