Militant Longshoreman No 11

Militant Longshoreman

No #11  November 27, 1984


Since Saturday morning Bay Area longshoremen have refused to unload South African cargo at Pier 80. This boycott of cargo to and from South Africa stands in militant solidarity with the struggle of South African blacks against the murderous, apartheid regime and in support of the powerful stay-away strikes waged by the black trade unions. In support of the courageous actions of Local 10 members, hundreds of people from labor, socialist and community organizations demonstrated at Pier 80 in our support and got largely favorable TV coverage for our action.

Saturday morning the gangs for the Nedlloyd Kimberley were not filled, so the ship was not worked at all. Saturday night the gangs discharged Australian cargo but when they got to the South African cargo the brothers and sisters refused to work It. They were fired for “failure to work as directed”.

Monday the PMA demanded that the union be found guilty of an “illegal work stoppage”. Instead, the arbitrator ruled against the men who refused to handle the cargo for reasons of consciousness. Nothing is left on the ship except South African cargo and every longshoreman dispatched has refused to handle it.

The employer has now two choices: either to pursue the arbitration procedure and then seek a court injunction to try to force us to work the cargo or to move the ship on to another port.

If the courts issue an injunction we should singly ignore it. An injunction is just a piece of paper. Our brothers and sisters in South Africa almost daily stand up to anrty and police bullets, beatings, arrests, mass firings, and deportations. The capitalist courts are our enemies as they’ve proven again and again when we are dragged into court as in the Gibson and Golden cases. In the case of South African cargo, with the Reagan regime closely and openly allied to the apartheid butchers, a judge can easily be found to order us to work the cargo.

But we proved during the Levin strike in Richumd that injunctions can be beaten. When the employer hired non-ILWU labor to steal our jobs, we responded to the injunction and to the presence of Richmond’s racist killer cops with mass pickets and by shutting down every ship in the Bay Area. The employer backed down and the injunction was quickly forgotten.

If Nedlloyd moves the Kimberley on to another port, Local 10 should immediately request that the other ILM locals honor and join our action by refusing to work the South African cargo. They joined us during the week long cargo boycott in 1977 in support of the Soweto uprising. And our action could also inspire solidarity from the heavily black East Coast ILA.

We should also request the groups, which demonstrated in our support at Pier 80, build similar demonstrations up and down the coast wherever the Nedlloyd Kimberley puts in.

So far, International President Herman has given us no real support. There is no middle ground. Either Brother Herman supports our courageous and principled stand or he is giving ground to Reagan, and the system of apartheid which Reagan supports. Our membership should demand Jimmy Herman’s public support.

Our act, like that of Australian maritime workers who have refused to work ships bound for South Africa, is a powerful demonstration of internationalism. It is concrete acts of solidarity like this, not ineffectual divestmeant, schemes,which can aid the South African working class in smashing apartheid and establishing a black-centered workers government.

Labor’s ability to wage solidarity strikes is a powerful political weapon. If U.S. unions had struck against the Vietnam war, the U.S. government would have been forced to withdraw much earlier. From continuing actions in support of the South African masses, to a general strike in defense of San Francisco restaurant workers as requested by Local 2, to a coastwise port shut down if Reagan invades Nicaragua; these are actions which by defending all workers will give us strength and make a reality the ILWU motto “An Injury to One Is An Injury to All