Monday, May 05, 2008

War is Over -- if you want it

A West Coast union shut down the ports for one shift of work. They didn't seem to mind risking their livelihoods, but their employers squealed like hungry pigs.

U.S. dock workers skip work to protest Iraq war
By William Yardley
Published: May 2, 2008
West Coast ports in the United States shut down for a day as thousands of longshoremen failed to report for work, part of what their union leaders said was a one-shift protest against the war in Iraq.
Cranes and forklifts stood still from Seattle to San Diego on Thursday, and ships were stalled at sea as workers held rallies up and down the coast to blame the war for distracting public attention and money from domestic needs like health care and education.
"We're loyal to America, and we won't stand by while our country, our troops and our economy are being destroyed by a war that's bankrupting us to the tune of $3 trillion," the president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Bob McEllrath, said in a written statement. "It's time to stand up, and we're doing our part today."
About 25,000 union members are employed at 29 West Coast ports, but the protest took place only during the day shift. A spokesman for the main West Coast employers' group, the Pacific Maritime Association, said it appeared that about 6,000 workers did not show up for work, which meant that about 10,000 containers would not be loaded or unloaded from about 30 cargo ships.

Union leaders said that the association had rejected their request weeks ago for the one-shift work stoppage on Thursday, but that local longshoremen continued to promote the protest. It went forward, the union leaders said, despite a demand on Wednesday by an independent arbitrator that they instruct members to go to work.
In many cases, dock workers were joined at port entrances or at rallies by other groups protesting the war or frustrated by economic issues or immigration policies. Some rallies seemed almost like street fairs, with booksellers setting up stands and supporters of the presidential candidate Ralph Nader carrying banners.
On the Seattle waterfront, members of the United Auto Workers and the Service Employees International Union mixed with self-described socialists while many of the scores of police officers on the scene ate box lunches and petted their horses.

Rebecca Cathcart contributed reporting from Long Beach, California, and Carolyn Marshall from Oakland, California.
It is a good first step but not sufficient. Americans can stop the war immediately by demanding it. It actually could be done by a small percentage of the people who were willing to go to the wall or to the barricades. In a city of a million, 1% of the population (say, Dennis Kucinich or Mike Gravel supporters, for example) would be a small army of 10,000 people, more than enough to block access to the headquarters of Halliburton, Kellogg Brown and Root, City Hall, the airport, the ports, the roads, rail, etc. Shut down every port, every airport, half the Fortune 500, major road and rail lines, many city governments, and I guarantee you something will happen. It would not be business as usual, pacify the people, war on. Peaceful, non-violent organizing, preferably including law enforcement and the armed forces is what I am talking about. If workers take democratic control of their workplaces, that would be even better. Such a movement requires a leader, a Martin Luther King -like figure, to coordinate and direct it. I think Kucinich, Gravel, Ron Paul, or Ralph Nader could have been (or could be?) that person. I see zer0 chance that Clinton or Obama would do what it takes. A reasonable demand would be to see a few 747s a week coming home, starting with the Reserve and National Guard, and no new forces going out. Even at a pace like that, 1000 soldiers a week, it would take 3 years to withdraw 150,000 soldiers. A more radical demand for five hundred soldiers a day returning would be on course for a one-year withdrawal.

With no leadership, no draft, a volunteer force, a low-intensity conflict, and for other reasons including the impending elections, the will is just not there. The war goes on and on. It disgusts me and most of the world. I just hope that the people's gamble on waiting for the elections to Help America Vomit will prove to be the right choice and not just lost time, money and lives.

Update: I think I may have stated that too negatively. There is, of course, majority support among the American public for withdrawing US troops from Iraq. Among some sub-populations, such as union members, that support may be over 75, 85, 95%, and deep enough that they are willing to go on strike for that principle. If they have the resolve to go on strike for one shift now they may be abe to strike for a month or more at some future time. If joined by, say, the national teachers unions, so that come September, virtually no schools or universities were able to conduct classes, and other unions, so that no major city had garbage collection and so on, government action to meet the public demands and pacify the unrest would be forthcoming. I think they would have to start the withdrawal.

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