Occupy Seattle – December 07, 2011
As of November 27, 2011, the Occupy movement in every major West Coast port city have joined Occupy Oakland in calling for and organizing a coordinated West Coast Port Blockade and Shutdown on Monday, December 12, 2011.
In Seattle, the shutdown begins at 1pm with a mass march from Westlake plaza to the port. The marchers will rally at 3pm at the Spokane Fisherman’s Pier directly adjacent the port. A second rally is being held at 6pm for supporters arriving after work
Though the Seattle port shutdown is being held in solidarity with the occupation of the state capitol in Olympia against proposed budget cuts, this is not the sum of its purpose.
“The ports are Wall Street on the waterfront – without them running, Wall Street makes no profits. If they cut our livelihoods, we will cut their profits,” said Maria Guillen, an Occupy Seattle Organizer. “By building for this, Occupy Seattle will show that we also are part of the workers’ struggle. The Decolonize/Occupy movement is a union for everyone, especially that 89% of the workforce who are not unionized, including immigrant laborers, such as Seattle’s own port truckers making poverty wages and suffering racial discrimination, as well as working women of color who still make significantly less than their male counterparts. Our picket lines are picket lines organized by working class people, in solidarity with fellow workers.”
Each Occupy is organizing plans for a mass mobilization and community pickets to shut down their local port. The mobilization of over 60,000 people that shut down the Port of Oakland during the general strike on November 2, 2011 is the model for the West Coast efforts. Organizers state that a police attempt to disrupt the port blockade or police violence against any city participating will extend duration of the blockade on the entire coast.
Though the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) cannot legally be involved in the planning of this action, there is much support for it from rank-and-file port workers.
“It appears that some working class people will set up a community picket line on the waterfront on December 12th,” commented Gabriel Prawl, local longshoreman and co-convener of the Million Worker March of the Pacific Northwest.
“They have been passing out fliers this week with four demands printed on them,” Prawl continued, referencing the movement’s four major demands to: 1. Stop Police Repression. 2. End Austerity Measures. 3. End Union Busting, especially against port truckers trying to organize across the West Coast. 4. Fight for transnational grain conglomerate EGT to negotiate in good faith with longshoremen.
“As a longshoreman, I notice that one of these demands is in direct solidarity with me, which I appreciate,” Prawl explained. “I have nothing to do with this decision to picket the waterfront, nor do any longshoremen that I am aware of, but I notice that these peoples’ demands are righteous. Many differences between economic classes have traditionally been aired out on the waterfront throughout the last century, including long before my union existed.”
Prawl was also insistent that, despite comments by union leadership, the rank-and-file longshoremen are beholden first and foremost to their own union principles. “As West Coast longshoremen, we follow a set of 10 guiding principles to help us do the right thing in situations like this. Principle number four states that we respect any picket line as if it were our own. And we hold this principle more sacred than the sanctity of any contractunder which we work.”
Further interviews and details can be obtained by contacting the Occupy Seattle Port Solidarity Committee at Seattleportsolidarity@gmail.com. For more information, visit www.westcoastportshutdown.org and www.occupyseattle.org.