West Coast ports were shut down on Thursday as thousands of longshoremen failed to report for work, part of what their union leaders said was a one-day, one-shift protest against the war in Iraq.
"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.
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.
In Oakland, Calif., some truckers who said they were angry about high gas prices decided not to cross picket lines at the port.
"I got here ready to haul," said Cesar Lara, 41, a resident of Richmond, Calif., born in Zacatecas, Mexico. "They told me it was a picket but if I wanted to go in I could. But I'm supporting them and to end the war."
Kevin Schroeder, director of Local 13's political action committee, said, "The children of middle-class people are over there dying, so we decided to do something. We are fortunate enough to be in an organization that has a platform to do something."
My hat's off to everyone who participated in this action. That said, one shift won't do anything other than perhaps raise awareness. Hit Big Biz in the pocketbook for a week or so and it might do even more when W**-M***'s shelves run bare of cheap Chinese gimcracks.
Now, if everybody who works for The Bigs stayed home one day...
This thought just jumped into my head: Wanta raise awareness? How about all the 'fast food' employees strike for one day? Folks'd notice that.