Militant Longshoreman No 13

Militant Longshoreman

No #13   January 7, 1984

Re-Elect Keylor (40-D) to Executive Board

From Defending Our Jobs at Levin to Opposing the Contract to Boycotting South African Cargo He’s Had A Strategy to Win!

Local 10 Shows the Way

Our eleven day boycott of South African cargo has done this Local proud. We pointed the way to effective international labor solidarity by reviving the “hot cargo” tactic. The unions used this tactic throughout the organizing drives of the 1930s and the bitter battles in 1946-48 to isolate struck employers. By refusing to transport or handle cargo from an anti-union employer workers even thousands of miles away and at widely dispersed locations could exert pressure to help other unions or oppressed workers. That’s why the infamous Taft-Hartley law passed in 1947 made “secondary boycotts” illegal. Our dramatic and effective action brought hundreds down to the docks in our support. We won the admiration of tens of thousands, showing that when the labor movement acts against apartheid the black community and trade unionists will rally to its support. We sparked a wave of anti-apartheid protests in the Bay Area which are still continuing, and we proved that concrete labor solidarity can have vastly greater impact than picketing embassies. Our union’s action was the longest political strike in memory on the West Coast. When the next ship carrying South African cargo comes in; if Reagan invades Nicaragua; or the next time the bosses try to break a union like PATCO or the Hotel and Restaurant workers, we should wage a solidarity strike again, appealing to other unions to join us in mass strike action. Actions which defend other workers give us strength and make real the ILWU motto “An Injury to One Is An Injury to All”.

At the same time, we should face squarely the shortcomings in the boycott, particularly since the Local is about to elect its officers for the next year. The South African cargo was finally unloaded, the Local lost PGP, ILWU-IBU member Jack Heyman was suspended by Crowley Maritime for approximately two weeks as a result of his participation in the embargo, and Local 10 is under a preliminary injunction which will be used against us when we act again.


None of this had to happen. If Local 10 had officers and an Executive Board worthy of our fighting  membership, officers willing to risk jail if necessary, we could have won outright. From the moment the membership voted to act, our officers should have been inviting union and community support and publicly demanding that International President Herman sanction the action and extend it coastwise. Instead, our officers were telling the media that our action was unauthorized and individual. Our officers should have sent delegations to the other ports to meet with other local officials and-to appeal directly to all longshoremen to refuse to work the blood stained cargo. When PMA proposed to unload the Nedlloyd Kimberley in Stockton, Local 54 told them to go to hell. With support like that, and backed by the thousands of Bay Area residents who wished us success, we could have defeated the injunction, like we did at Levin. Instead, the officers and the Executive Board caved in and ordered us to work the Nedlloyd Kimberley.

Make no mistake about it: the PMA and the capitalist government were scared. They recognize how deeply blacl Americans feel about the oppression in South Africa and how popular our union action was. That’s the main reason why they were so slow in arbitrating and imposing an injunction, and that’s why so far the fines/damages have been suspended. When the continuing rebellion of the black trade unions and the South African masses stirs us to act collectively again, it is precisely that community support, properly organized in our defense, and spread to other unions which can help us smash the injunction.

Some union members, particularly Brothers Leo Robinson and his closest supporter, Dave Steward, who played an important role in the boycott, honestly believe that Local 10 has no choice but to give in to the injunction. The difference hereis that they don’t understand that the working class’ ability to stop the economic machinery of the capitalist system and their government makes us uniquely powerful, whether in the U.S. or in South Africa. Leo and Dave have a commitment to individual acts of consciousness and a belief that community action can force the multinational corporations to forgoe their enormous profits extracted from the super exploited black South African workers. This belief is combined with a lack of confidence that the organized labor movement can lead political struggles to victory, and can be won to successfully defy and defeat government/court repression.

For the same reason, during contract fights over the past ten years brother Leo Robinson in particular has failed to go beyond calling for a no vote, and has refused to advocate organizing coastwide strike action to defeat bad contracts and get what we need.


If Leo and Dave want to engage in something more effective than symbolic acts of protest, they should reexamine their strategy and especially that of their allies around Archie Brown and the People’s World. Their strategy of pressuring the liberal Democratic wing of the capitalist class rather than trying to overturn the capitalist system has led the working class to disastrous defeats for the past 50 years. The People’s World played a large role in sabotaging an attempt to continue the boycott by other means after the Local Executive Board had agreed Monday night, December 3, to capitulate to the injunction. When I and others encouraged the several hundred supporters present at Pier 80 Tuesday morning to set up an effective picket line and shut down the pier, Franklin Alexander panicked the crowd by telling them that they faced 6 months in jail. People’s World supporters acted in conjunction with the SFPD to open up the picket line when we had the trucks stopped and the pier effectively closed. They managed to turn the picket line into an impotent demonstration, and thereby destroyed it.


International President Jim Herman should be thrown out of office for his back-stabbing. During the Levin strike, he sided with the employers. During the ILWU-IBU tankerman’s strike, he ordered longshoremen to cross the picket line. During the South African boycott he agreed with the PMA that our action was an “illegal work stoppage” in violation of the contract, and thereby Herman laid the legal basis for PMA being able to get  their apartheid injunction. Recently, in describing Herman’s disapproval of cargo boycott actions, the Pacific Shipper (December 24, 1984), an employers magazine, said: “Despite the fact that it was a local of his union that ignited the controversy in the Bay Area, Mr. Herman believes that the ‘proper place’ for demonstrations against South African apartheid are at that nation’s consulates, or by way of organized public demonstrations of limited duration.” We haven’t noticed him getting arrested along with the other labor “leaders”. While all actions against the apartheid regime are welcome, particularly those in support of the labor movement, it’s clear that many of the congressmen, clergymen and labor bureaucrats picketing the embassy are motivated by a desire to clean up the image of the Democratic Party after the Mondale fiasco.


As I said in Militant Longshoreman No. 12: “Some brothers favor a policy of divestment of shares of corporations which invest in South Africa, Personally I regard this as ineffective and potentially even counterproductive. It also creates the illusion that the big banks and investments houses, which make billions of dollars of blood-money from the racist exploitation of black labor in South Africa, can be pressured into becoming friends of the black masses in that racist hell-hole. The only kind of ‘divestment’ which I’m interested in pushing is the divestment of the white supremacist rulers and their international investors by the black workers of South Africa and the establishment of a black-centered government.

“Protectionism” is another issue where there are differences. Some brothers think that we shouldn’t unload South African steel because so many American steel workers are laid off. This action is aimed solely at providing a blow against the apartheid regime. That is why we shouldn’t unload that steel. The answer to the unemployment of U.S. steel workers is not to side with the shareholders of U.S. Steel etc. to export unemploy merit, and thus divide American workers from workers of other countries. It is by fighting with steel workers and other sections of the labor movement against the banks and the corporations for a shorter work week at no loss in pay. Nonetheless, despite my differences with other members of the committee on these and other questions, we can all agree to work together to build this fight and spread it coastwise.”


Finally, Stan Gow merits special mention. As ILWU members are aware, Stan and I worked together for years. Until now, I have urged longshoremen to vote for him despite my criticisms, because on paper his program was largely correct. However, his actions during the boycott have drawn the line. Together with Peter Woolston and other Militant Caucus supporters in Local 6, and fully backed by the Spartacist League, Stan did everything he could to divide, confuse and disrupt our action.

We noted in Militant Longshoreman No. 4 that Stan and the Militant Caucus had begun to abandon their orientation to the organized working class. During his El Salvador stunt Stan substituted himself for the union with his one-longshoreman picket line, a sign of growing disorientation and disbelief that union members could be won to action. But at least he was on the right side on the El Salvador question, and I defended him. Now his actions served to split and confuse the most important political Strike in years.

On Saturday night, November 24, he and a handful of others piceted the Nedlloyed Kimberly despite the mebership’s decision to work the Australian cargo. When Keylor originally opened the discussion on the South African boycott he urged that longshoremen refuse to work the ship, but when it became clear that the overwhelming majority consensus of the membership was to not work the South African cargo he found that quite supportable, and actively worked to make the boycott a success. Stan says that’s “treachery”! Success is treachery! — Sabotage is militance! Stan and the Militant Caucus attempted to counterpose their fake-militant picket line to the real activity of the union. Stan and his friends were aiming to split the union action that should have been automatically supported by all genuine labor militants. In fact, the Militant Caucus and Spartacist supporters became so deranged that they called the unionists who came out to carry out the South African boycott “scabs”, and those in the crowd who were supporting them “racists”. Stan’s attitude was: adopt my program or I spit on you — even though you’ve stopped the South African cargo cold. Then when the injunction came down, after a lot of bluster about defying the injunction, Stan and his cohorts refused to join the picket line which I and many others had established in order to try to force the Nedlloyd Kimberley to leave port.

Stan makes much of the difference between working the cargo and working the ship. Why? He knows it’s just a matter of tactics. The membership decided on what they thought would be most effective. After two days the ship sat perfectly idle anyway. In 1974 the union refused to handle Chilean cargo but worked the ship. Stan and I helped to initiate the action and considered it a real victory. In 1977 we argued for more extensive action but still supported and helped build the South African cargo boycott. What’s new this time?


Similarly Stan accused the union, and me in particular, of treachery around the Nedlloyd Kyoto off-loading pig iron at Richmond Yard 1. First of all, the ship was, diverted, and we didn’t know it was arriving until two hours prior to starting work. Secondly, when you are planning a battle, you pull it where you are strongest. The ILWU has full and uncontested jurisdiction at Pier 80, San Francisco. At Richmond/Levin we had to wage an all out battle just to reestablish our toe hold, and the right to ghost riders when the dockside cranes are used. If we had had sufficient time we could have appealed to the Operating Engineers to stop the cargo at Levin’s, but in San Francisco we were able to rely on our own forces. Without adequate preparation the Local’s action could very easily have ended as unsuccessfully as Stan’s isolated attempts.

What lies behind this sorry story is that Stan’s Militant Caucus has given up on the working class. In 1974 and 1977, during the Chile cargo boycott and the first South African cargo boycott Stan, the Militant Caucus, and the Spartacist League played a principled role in trying to support the ILWU action and extend it coastwise. This time shamefully, they tried to wreck it. No vote for Stan Gow.



By now, six months after the disastrous 1984 contract was imposed on us, everyone should be able to see that business as usual won’t preserve our union or our jobs. We’re going to have to carefully pick the issues and take arbitrary stopwork action outsidethe contract grievance procedures. Whether it’s PMA coding older and disabled men out of PGP, arbitrarily mis-ordering men, working in violation of the contract, or tampering with the dispatch system and hiring hall, we must be prepared to go to the mat, any not simply knuckle under to Sutliff or Edwards.

If we do it right we can lay the basis for a coastwise movement to cancel the contract, and go for what we all need. In spite of repeated indications that the mebership is ready to fight, neither the officers nor the Executive Board have been willing to even systematically discuss a program of action to resist PMA. None of the many brothers running for office have developed and come forward with a program that can even be seriously discussed as to whether the brother merits electoral support. For that reason the Militant Longshoreman makes no endorsement of any candidate for local office.

We appeal to brothers and sisters to carefully read the program printed below, and vote for Howard Keylor.


1. DEFEND OUR JOBS AND LIVELYHOOD – Six hour shift, no extensions, at eight hours pay. Manning scales on all ship operations; one man, one job. Full- no-cap C.O.L.A. on wages. Weekly PGP, eliminate all “coding out” rules. No restrictions on PGP eligibility. No “take back” on travel time.

2. DEFEND THE HIRING HALL – Use regular gangs on container ships; no dispatch of “unit gangs”. Call all 9.43 men back to the hall. Stopwork action to defend the hiring hall, the stop line and older and disabled men.

3. DEFEND UNION CONDITIONS AND SAFETY THROUGH JOB ACTION – Stop PMA chiseling on the contract. Eliminate “work as directed”, “no illegal work stoppage”, and arbitration sections from the contract. Mobilize to smash anti-labor injunctions.

4, DEFEND OUR UNION – Eliminate class B registration category from the contract – promote all class B to class A coastwise. Keep racist anti-labor government and courts out of the union. Support union resistance against court suits and government “investigations”. Union action to break down racial and sexual discrimination and employer favoritism on the waterfront. Lay the basis for cancelling the contract and waging a coastwise fight for what we need.

5. BUILD LABOR SOLIDARITY – against government/employer strikebreaking. No more PATCOs. Honor all picket lines – remove reactionary ones. Don’t handle struck or diverted. cargo. No raiding of other unions. Organize the unorganized and the unemployed. Labor strikes to stop cuts in Social Security, Medical, Medicare and Workmen’s Compensation.

6. STOP NAZI/KLAN TERROR through union organized labor/black/Latino defense actions. No dependance on capitalist police or courts to smash fascists.

7. WORKING CLASS ACTION TO STOP REAGAN’S WAR DRIVE AGAINST THE SOVIET UNION – Oppose reactionary boycotts against Soviet and Polish shipping. Labor strikes to oppose U.S. military actions against Cuba, Nicaragua, or Salvadoran leftist insurgents. Boycott military cargo to Chile, El Salvador, Israel and Turkey. Defy the apartheid injunction. Boycott all South African cargo during periods of intense struggle and repression.

8. INTERNATIONAL LABOR SOLIDARITY – Oppose protectionist trade restrictions. Defend undocumented workers with strike action. ILWU support to military victory of leftist insurgents in El Salvador.

9. BREAK ‘WITH DEMOCRATIC AND REPUBLICAN PARTIES – Start now to build a workers party based on the unions to fight for a workers government which will sieze all major industry without payment to the capitalists and establish a planned economy to end exploitation, racism, poverty, and war.