Militant Longshoreman No. 6

Militant Longshoreman

No. #6 Dec. 3, 1983

[This issue was reprinted with a clarifying introduction ET Bulletin #2, January 1984. We are including that introduction. First posted online at ]

Militant Longshoreman on Greyhound Strike

A Strategy to Win

15 December—We reprint below Militant Longshoreman No. 6 which was distributed both at the Greyhound strikers’ mass picket in San Francisco on 3 December and inside the ILWU. Due to a transcription error, “Prepare for a General Strike,” which was intended to be a superheadline, was made the main headline. This gives an incorrect emphasis in a leaflet whose text posed the issues and tactics correctly. The key now is to organize the continuing, random and largely leaderless participation of ATU and non-ATU union members on the picket lines to sustain mass picketing to shut down Greyhound. “If,” as the Militant Longshoreman notes correctly, “Feinstein’s cops attack the pickets, the whole city should be shut down. Nationally, a San Francisco general strike could spark a needed solidarity strike of all the transport unions to support the ATU.”

At the December 3rd events, the SL carried signs and led chants focussing primarily on “picket lines mean don’t cross.” While formally correct, in a situation where all the major unions involved are honoring the picket lines—with the disgusting exception of the UAW in Detroit—this represents a tactical skew. The real issue now is mass pickets to stop the scab buses. While ET supporters carried a sign at the mass pickets on 3 and 10 December saying “Anti-Soviet War Drive Abroad Means Union Busting at Home!,” the SL carried no such signs to our knowledge. This is noteworthy from an organization which accuses its critics of wanting to accommodate to the bureaucracy, in part by taking a dive on the Russian question. Another ET sign said “Prepare for a General Strike Against Feinstein’s Cops’ Strikebreaking” and “Break With Feinstein’s Democrats—Build a Workers Party” and the Militant Longshoremanemphasized her strikebreaking role in the ILWU as part of our active fight in longshore to mobilize support for the strike. But not one SL sign that we saw mentioned Feinstein’s strikebreaking! From an organization which once rightfully prided itself on its no-holds-barred opposition to her strikebreaking, this omission is noteworthy.



The Greyhound strike is now at a turning point. The ATU membership’s second massive rejection of the 25% takeaway contract means that Greyhound’s initial strategy failed. Greyhound expected that by hiring some scabs and getting 10% of the runs going, the union members would be scared into going back to work. Less than 2% have succumbed to the pressure. The strike remains strong.

Greyhound’s new announcement that it will attempt to resume full service can mean only one thing: it intends to break the strike physically, not only with scabs but with cops.

The only reason any buses are rolling in San Francisco now is because Feinstein’s cops attacked the picket line the first day of the strike. They made it clear that any further attempts to stop the buses would be met with more arrests and beatings. ILWU International President, Herman, together with the AFL-CIO Central Labor Council and the Teamsters’ leaders arranged a “truce” with Feinstein which was completely against the strikers: no cops will be around so long as the union doesn’t try to stop the buses! As Greyhound hires more scabs, this “truce” will mean that the trickle of scab buses will become a stream and then a river.

The holes in the picket lines must be plugged. The cops must be faced down and backed off. Labor has the power: there are tens of thousands of union members in San Francisco alone. Every day mass pickets, a thousand strong, should surround and shut down the Greyhound terminal. Members of all unions, particularly transport workers from AC Transit, Muni, BART, the Teamsters, longshoremen and the railroads, should organize to beef-up the ATU picket lines.

Every worker has a stake in the strike. It is the most important attack on labor nationally since Reagan busted PATCO. The destruction of PATCO was a big step in Reagan’s drive to force down the standard of living of U.S. workers in order to make them pay for his anti-Soviet war drive. Since PATCO’s defeat, the airlines have attacked the airline unions one by one, rolling back wages and benefits, and, at Continental, firing everyone. If the machinists, flight attendants, baggage handlers, teamsters, etc. had stuck together—if they had ignored and thrown out the union officers who ordered them to cross each others’ picket lines—PATCO would still exist today and the airline unions wouldn’t be in a mess.

Labor must not be divided—together, the unions have the power to defeat Feinstein and the other Democratic mayors and Republican governors who have ordered cop attacks on the strikers—from Boston to Philadelphia to Tucson. Feinstein is an enemy of labor. From PROP. L in 1974, to the defeated City Workers strike in 1976 and ever since, she has been in the forefront of anti-union attacks. But Feinstein has twice been beaten by forces with far less strength than the unions. When Dan White was let off with manslaughter in 1978, her cops stood by, vastly outnumbered by gays vividly demonstrating their anger. In 1980, when the Nazis tried to celebrate Hitler’s birthday at San Francisco city hall, a coalition of unionists, blacks, Latins, Jews, gays and socialists, initiated by the Spartacist League, announced that they would mobilize thousands strong to run the Nazis out—and Feinstein suddenly changed her mind about providing five hundred blue-uniformed stormtroopers to protect the Hitlerites. Feinstein, like most northern Democratic politicians, is dependent on working class and minority votes to keep in office and is therefore susceptible to mass pressure.

The ILWU, AFL-CIO and Teamster leaders won’t take the necessary action. Right now they are honoring each others’ picket lines. They realize that if too many more unions are smashed they won’t have the dues base to pay their businessmen’s salaries nor the political leverage to get themselves appointed to city and county jobs. But they’ll make a deal at the strikers’ expense at a moment’s notice. They caved into Moscone, Feinstein & Co. in ‘76. First, they threatened a general strike. Then they ran like scared rats. Now they are at it again. Two weeks ago—November 17—Jimmy Herman called longshore Local 10 officers to get their agreement to participate in a one-day general strike to support the Greyhound strikers. Armed with Local 10’s (and probably other unions’) agreement, Herman, the AFL-CIO and Teamster leaders marched into Feinstein’s office. They “won” a “truce” which keeps the scab buses going and they got the much-publicized Feinstein letter to Reaganite Deukmejian. The tokenism of this threat was proved when Addison and Keylor put a motion on the floor to mobilize longshoremen to the Greyhound picket lines and the Local 10 officers ruled it out of order. Had Herman & Co. forgotten where plumbers’ union leader Mazzola’s weakness ended him in 1976? Right smack in Feinstein’s jail!

The ILWU’S recent strike in Richmond shows there’s another way—the way to win. When Levin Terminals tried to bring in outside labor to steal our jobs; when the international officers ruled our strike illegal and our business—unionist local officers vacillated—we massed more than 1,200 strong in Richmond. Our union backed off the notorious Richmond killer cops. In solidarity, we shut down all Bay Area ports despite our contract which said we couldn’t. Our action beat the injunction, stopped the union-busting, won a union contract, and stopped Levin’s bid to take the auto work, container and break bulk cargo from longshoremen.

That’s what’s needed with Greyhound. If Feinstein’s cops attack the pickets, the whole city should be shut down. Nationally, a San Francisco general strike could spark a needed solidarity strike of all the transport unions to support the ATU.

The San Francisco general strike could bring the unemployed to our side by fighting for a shorter work week at no loss in pay to create jobs and by demanding full restoration of all cuts in city, county and state medical and welfare payments.

The way to maximize the chance of winning a general strike is to elect a strike committee representing all unions. This centralized strike committee would run the strike, oust the timid pro-capitalist labor bureaucrats and smash the alliance with the capitalist Democratic party.

Fred Addison
Howard Keylor