Occupy Oakland’s Labor Solidarity Committee Invites Participation – Describes History

Categories: Front Page, Labor Solidarity Committee, Open Mic

The OO Labor Solidarity Committee has been part of OO since we helped to organize for the November 2 General Strike and Port Shutdown, as part of the Strike Assembly, on the heels of the brutal attack on the camp by the OPD and the state.

Invitation
Labor Solidarity Committee meets every Thursday @ 6pm. Every other week it’s at OGP. On the off weeks we meet at various union halls, as they are available. A notice of the location is sent out weekly to the list. We always have two facilitators, and try to rotate one on and one off, so each person facilitates two weeks in a row. We are part of OO, so announcements at our meetings include other OO activities. We also get volunteers to report on our activities at the GA. Many of our members attend the GA’s and participate in other OO activities. We have two email lists. One is moderated and is only for announcements and official OOLS activities. The other is a debate list and is un-moderated. We encourage everyone here to come to our meetings and help us find more ways to support the struggles of our class. The strength of OOLS comes from its association with OO, and OO, in turn, gets some of its strength from our activities.

History
In the days before November 2, all of Occupy Oakland was mobilized in planning and doing outreach. We divided into working groups for students, community, media, and labor. The labor grouping focused on planning the port shutdown action. We reached out to various labor organizations and rank and file workers.

ILWU rank and file members issued a statement titled “Defend Occupy Oakland with the muscle of organized labor”, urging support for the General Strike. The OO Strike Assembly, in turn, issued a statement which said in part “we will march on the Port of Oakland and shut it down … We are doing this in order to blockade the flow of capital … as well as show solidarity with the ILWU workers in their struggle against EGT in Longview, WA. EGT is an international grain exporter which is attempting to rupture longshore jurisdiction.” This was the 1st of many subsequent actions paving the way for true solidarity between workers and the community, which combined demonstrated a new power, not seen in the U.S. for decades.

Other unions supported the General Strike, as well, including SEIU 1021, who publicly called on their members “to join a day-long Peaceful Day of Action in support of Occupy Oakland and against the banking industry and last week’s police brutality against the Occupy Oakland encampment.” The Carpenters’ union Local 713 issued a similar statement. Teamsters brought a truckload of water for the marchers, the Oakland Education Association supplied porta-potties. The California Nurses Association, UAW Local 2865 and the Inland Boatmen’s Union also supported the strike.

The labor committee of the Strike Assembly decided to keep meeting after the General Strike to plan further actions, naming itself the Labor Solidarity Committee of OO. A march and rally was organized for Saturday, 11/19. The focus was on demands for people’s needs, particularly jobs, housing, education, and healthcare. It was to be jointly planned with a number of local union representatives. We worked with the OEA teachers and marched to one of the schools targeted for shutdown. Dan Coffman, President of ILWU Local 21 came down from Longview to thank us for our support on Nov 2 speaking at the rally and joining the march.

Soon after the strike, OO decided to answer Occupy LA’s call for a west coast port shutdown on December 12. OO Labor Sol immersed into OO’s West Coast Port Shutdown committee. Others joined and again we organized into labor, community and student outreach groups, with a new west coast outreach group, as well. OO soon took on the leadership for the D12 coastwide shutdown. We developed 3 points of unity for the coastwide shutdown:

• Solidarity with ILWU Local 21 in Longview, in their fight against EGT’s union busting,

• Solidarity with the port truckers in LA, who were fighting SSA, an anti-union port terminal operator, majority owned by Goldman Sachs,

• and third, an Occupy strike back against the brutal nationally coordinated attacks on the Occupy movement, organized by the 1% and their government agents.

Among other activities to organize labor support for D12, a number of Labor Sol people tried to reach out to the port truckers. A meeting was held with some of them, to help us understand some of their issues. Several truckers wound up writing letters of solidarity with Occupy and the port shutdown.

Labor Sol again reconvened after the successful D12 West Coast Port Shutdown actions. This time we immersed ourselves in a campaign to organize a caravan to go to Longview, WA, in response to a call from Occupy Longview. The next step in the battle for ILWU union jurisdiction was to prevent the loading of grain from the Port of Longview to a grain ship scheduled to arrive there, originally in December, and later delayed to January, and then February. Again, this was a coordinated action, together with rank and file members of the ILWU and Occupy Oakland, Portland, Seattle, and Longview. Building for the caravan became complex as the ILWU International leadership showed its fear of unleashing the power of the developing joint union/community action. International President McEllrath clamped down on Local 21 President Coffman and the local’s ranks with a gag order, isolating the local from its entire support network.

Ultimately, EGT was forced to agree to recognize the ILWU jurisdiction, in a last minute deal, brokered by the Washington Governor, in fear of the impending battle in the small town of Longview, where it was clear that the forces of Occupy and the ILWU and other union ranks were ready to fight to stop the ship from being loaded. The treachery of International President McEllrath, however, with his forced isolation of Local 21, allowed a highly concessionary contract to be rammed down the local’s collective throat. There’s no time to get into the details of this here, but the struggle around this did show the power which combined worker and community alliances can wield. We need to learn how to use this to our advantage going forward.

Meanwhile, a number of Labor Sol members, who weren’t able to travel to Longview, wanted to focus on local struggles. They reached out to several groups who were struggling in their workplaces. The workers from the American Licorice factory in Union City asked for our help on their strike. We mobilized and tripled the size of their picket lines. A number of our people blocked cars, trucks and vans attempting to bring in scabs and supplies. The Union City cops responded in force, even bringing in a tank. The Alameda Labor Council was shamed into rallying support and brought out a crew of pickets the next day, as well. Unfortunately, the workers then voted to accept a concessionary contract.

Some of us began working with some of the 200 undocumented Pacific Steel workers, who had been fired from their jobs in Berkeley, after an I-9 raid, which is a virtual raid, based on the validity of workers’ social security numbers. Together with others in a support coalition, we helped them organize a march from downtown Berkeley to the plant. The NLRB has since ruled that the I-9 raid was illegal, as the company wasn’t required to do it, since they didn’t have a federal contract. Most of the workers have still not been called back to work, due to the limited remedies offered in the NLRB ruling. Many of the Pacific Steel workers, who worked on this campaign, were so energized by the struggle that they took an active role in helping to organize the May 1 Dignity and Resistance march.

We worked with the locked out Castlewood workers, who have been struggling against the elite Castlewood Country Club in Pleasanton for two years. The member run club locked them out after they refused to take major concessions to their health care coverage. OO Labor Sol helped to organize a march from downtown Pleasanton to the Club, where some of us held a mock 1% counter-protest. They are having another action at 12:30 on Monday, against a Walmart supplier, who is having a golf outing there.

We worked to support the Golden Gate bridge workers’ coalition of 14 unions, when they invited us to help shutdown the bridge on MayDay. Unfortunately, they waffled and were unwilling to commit to a strike, and we were unwilling to substitute ourselves in their struggle. We would have gladly fought with them to shut down the bridge, if they had committed to a strike. The Inland Boatmen’s Union did wind up going out on a one shift strike on MayDay, and some Labor Sol people supported their pickets. The unions have since been offered a contract, which they had been without for almost a year. We don’t have details of the offer, but can’t help but think that again the threat of Occupy shutting down the bridge may have brought the contract offer to the workers sooner than they may have otherwise have seen it.

To help organize for MayDay & beyond Labor Sol organized the 1st Workers Assembly the week before MayDay and this one, in an attempt to find new ways to help our class organize ourselves and support each others’ struggles. Labor Sol members joined the OO MayDay assembly and some of us also helped to organize the Dignity & Resistance march.

Labor Solidarity Committee meets every Thursday @ 6pm. Every other week it’s at OGP. On the off weeks we meet at various union halls, as they are available. A notice of the location is sent out weekly to the list. We always have two facilitators, and try to rotate one on and one off, so each person facilitates two weeks in a row. We are part of OO, so announcements at our meetings include other OO activities. We also get volunteers to report on our activities at the GA. Many of our members attend the GA’s and participate in other OO activities. We have two email lists. One is moderated and is only for announcements and official OOLS activities. The other is a debate list and is un-moderated. We encourage everyone here to come to our meetings and help us find more ways to support the struggles of our class. The strength of OOLS comes from its association with OO, and OO, in turn, gets some of its strength from our activities.

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