Clarence Thomas is a former officer and long-time labor activist with ILWU Local 10. I spoke with him about the prospect of a shutdown of the Port of Oakland this evening — a goal of Occupy Oakland demonstrators who called a general strike today.
Clarence Thomas: “One of the reasons why they are doing it is because they are trying to defend ILWU workers in Longview, Washington, who are facing a behemoth of agribusiness, EGT. The driving force behind EGT is a leading agribusiness concern called Bunge. . . . Longshoremen have a debt of gratitude to the people who have organized this action today. . . . 30% of the funding of our pensions comes from that grain operation in the Pacific Northwest. This is an attempt to rupture the jurisdiction of longshore workers that we’ve had for over 77 years in this country. Wall Street is on the move, on the waterfront, looking for new profits, and the community are standing with the ILWU. They are standing with us for a reason. They know about 1984, when longshoremen refused to unload cargo from South Africa for 11 days. They know about the ILWU shutting down all 29 ports in defense of Mumia Abu-Jamal. They know about the ILWU shutting down all 29 ports on May Day, International Workers’ Day, to protest the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. They understand about the ILWU and the actions that we took by not crossing the picket line in response to the murder on the high seas of those humanitarian activists taking supplies to Gaza. The ship was shut down for 24 hours, the Zim Line ship from Israel. They know about the actions that we took last October in support of Oscar Grant. And this resonates with the community. So now the community is saying: We want to stand in support of the ILWU. So, this connection is genuine, it’s legitimate, and we embrace it.”
John Hamilton anchors the Pacifica Evening News, airing on KPFA-Berkeley, KFCF-Fresno, and KPFK-Los Angeles, three nights a week.
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