United States: Victory as protesters and union block Israeli ship unloading at Oakland Port

Video by Tom Vee TV. More video below.

[For more information about trade union solidarity with Palestine, click HERE.]

June 20, 2010 -- ANSWER -- In a historic action and unprecedented action today, more 800 worker and community activists blocked the gates of the Oakland docks in the early morning hours, prompting longshore workers to refuse to cross the picketlines where they were scheduled to unload an Israeli ship.

From 5:30 am to 9:30 am, a militant and spirited protest was held in front of four gates of the Stevedore Services of America, with people chanting non-stop, “Free, free Palestine, don’t cross the picket line” and “An injury to one is an injury to all, bring down the apartheid wall".

Citing the health and safety provisions of their contract, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union workers refused to cross the picketline to report for duty.

Between 8:30 am and 9:00 am, an emergency arbitration was conducted at the Maersk parking lot nearby, with an “instant” arbitrator called to the site to rule on whether the workers could refuse to cross the picketline without disciplinary measure.

At 9:15 a.m, after again reviewing the protests of hundreds at each gate, the arbitrator ruled in favour of the union that it was indeed unsafe for the workers to enter the docks.

To loud cheers of “Long live Palestine!” Jess Ghannam of Free Palestine Alliance and Richard Becker of the ANSWER Coalition announced the victory. Ghannam said, “This is truly historic, never before has an Israeli ship been blocked in the United States!”

The news that a container ship from the Zim Israeli shipping line was scheduled to arrive in the Bay Area today has sparked a tremendous outpouring of solidarity for Palestine, especially in the aftermath of the Israeli massacre of volunteers bringing humanitarian aid to Gaza on May 31.

With 10 days advance notice of the ship’s arrival, the emergency Labor/Community Committee in Solidarity with the Palestinian People was set up. On June 16, some 110 people from unions and community came to help organise logistics, outreach and community support. Initiating organisations included the Al-Awda Palestine Right to Return Coalition, the ANSWER Coalition, the Bay Area Labor Chapter of USLAW and the Bay Area Labor Committee for Peace & Justice.

The Labor/Community Committee in Solidarity with the People of Palestine also included: Arab American Union Members Council, Palestine Youth Network, US Palestine Community Network,  Arab Youth Organization, MECA -- Middle East Children's Alliance, Students for Justice in Palestine, Arab Resource and Organizing Center, International Action Center, International Solidarity Movement, San Jose Peace and Justice Center, International Socialist Organization, Peace and Freedom Party -- SF, Transport Workers Solidarity Committee and many labor activists in the Bay Area.

This week the San Francisco Labor Council [see below] and Alameda Labor Council passed resounding resolutions denouncing Israel’s blockade of Gaza. Both councils sent out public notices of the dock action.

The ILWU has a proud history of extending its solidarity to struggling peoples the world over. In 1984, as the Black masses of South Africa were engaged in an intense struggle against South African apartheid, the ILWU refused for a record-setting 10 days to unload cargo from the South African Ned Lloyd ship. Despite million-dollar fines imposed on the union, the longshore workers held strong, providing a tremendous boost to the anti-apartheid movement.

Today’s Oakland action, in the sixth largest port in the United States, is the first of several protests and work stoppages planned around the world, including Norway, Sweden and South Africa. It is sure to inspire others to do the same.

The goal is for a 24-hour shutdown of the docks where the Israeli ship is docked, so the protest is planned again for 4:30 pm. Click here for details of the 4:30 pm. protest.

Featuring the Brass Liberation Orchestra.

San Francisco Labor Council Resolution regarding the attack on the Gaza Aid Flotilla, calling for an independent international investigation, and opening of the Gaza border

Adopted June 14, 201

Whereas many labour organisations, including:

International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)

World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) 

International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) 

International Dockworkers Council (IDC)

International Federation of Journalists 

Public Services International (PSI) 

Education International (EI) 

Trades Union International -- Building, Wood, Building Materials & Allied Industries 

Australian Council of Trade Unions 

Canadian Union of Postal Workers

Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) -- Ontario

Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and National Union of Mineworkers (S. Africa)

New Zealand Council of Trade Unions

Irish Congress of Trade Unions and IMPACT, Ireland's largest public and services union

Maritime Union of Australia 

National Union of Journalists in UK 

Greek General Confederation of Labor (GSEE)

Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU)

Swedish Dock Workers Union

Norwegian Dock Workers Union, and Norwegian Labor Federation LO

Trades Union Congress UK 

UNISON, the largest public sector union in Britain

UNITE, Britain's largest union

U.S. Labor Against the War

Arab American Union Members Council

Bay Area Labor Committee for Peace & Justice

International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU), Local 10

Alameda County Central Labor Council

have condemned the May 31st Israeli commando attack on the Gaza Aid Flotilla, which killed at least nine unarmed people and seized and detained some 700 passengers and crew. Many of these labor organizations, as well as the U.N. and Amnesty International, have also called for an independent international investigation of the attack and for a permanent opening of the Gaza border in accordance with international law; and

Whereas the Elders, a group started by Nelson Mandela including six Nobel peace prize winners (former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, former US President Jimmy Carter, detained Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and former Archbishop Desmond Tutu) described as "completely inexcusable" the Israeli attack on the Gaza Aid Flotilla and stated: "This tragic incident should draw the world's attention to the terrible suffering of Gaza's 1.5 million people, half of whom are children under the age of 18," and also noted that "the treatment of the people of Gaza is one of the world's greatest human rights violations and that the blockade is Š illegal"; and

Whereas the aid carried on the ship was strictly humanitarian in nature, containing materials such as wheelchairs, medical, school and building supplies and non-perishable foods -- items that Israel has refused to allow into Gaza since 2007, or only in insufficient amounts to meet the pressing needs of Gaza's people; and

Whereas the military assault on the Gaza Aid Flotilla was carried out in the dead of night in international waters in violation of accepted norms of state conduct regarding use of the open ocean for non-military purposes; and

Whereas, in solidarity with the people of Gaza, the Swedish Dock Workers Union is refusing to work Israeli ships from June 22-29, and the Norwegian dock workers have agreed not to work Israeli cargo from June 15-29 -- in response to the attack on the Gaza Aid Flotilla; and

Whereas the San Francisco Labor Council has previously adopted two resolutions calling for the lifting of the blockade against Gaza.

Therefore be it resolved that the San Francisco Labor Council join the long list of labor organizations around the world and the International Committee of the Red Cross, in condemning the unwarranted May 31st attack by the Israeli military on the unarmed humanitarian aid flotilla sailing in international waters; and

Be it further resolved that the council join the UN, Amnesty International, ITUC, COSATU and the many other labor and civil society organizations in calling for an independent international investigation of the attack on the Gaza Aid Flotilla; and

Be it further resolved that the council reaffirms its position in calling on Israel to lift the blockade, so the people of Gaza can have normal communication, travel and commerce with the rest of the world; and

Be it finally resolved that the council communicate this resolution to affiliated unions, area labor councils, community allies, the California Federation of Labor, the AFL-CIO, Change to Win, all members of the House and Senate who represent the jurisdiction of this council, and to President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

[Resolution adopted near-unanimously by the San Francisco Labor Council at the regular delegates meeting held June 14, 2010 in San Francisco, California.]

Submitted by Terry Townsend on Tue, 06/22/2010 - 13:58


Activists prevent Israeli ship from unloading at US port
Report, The Electronic Intifada, 21 June 2010

US activists successfully prevented the unloading of an Israeli cargo ship at the Port of Oakland. (The Electronic Intifada)

For the first time in US history, a peaceful protest was able to stop workers from unloading an Israeli cargo ship on Sunday, 20 June, in the San Francisco Bay area. From 5:30am until 7pm, social justice activists and labor union organizers blocked and picketed several entrances at the Port of Oakland, preventing two shifts of longshoremen with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) to come to work and unload the Israeli Zim Lines cargo ship.

Approximately 700 protesters and labor organizers launched the action in direct response to the ongoing blockade in the Gaza Strip and the Israeli attacks on humanitarian aid activists aboard the Gaza Freedom Flotilla last month. Nine persons, including a 19-year-old American citizen, were killed in the attacks, and at least thirty were wounded as activists attempted to sail to the beleaguered Gaza Strip with thousands of tons of humanitarian supplies prevented from normal import by Israel.

The picket at the Port of Oakland comes on the heels of a similar actions around the world in protest of Israeli policies. Dockworkers in Sweden announced on 2 June that no Israeli ships would be unloaded or processed between 15-24 June in protest of the Israeli attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla.

A coalition of Palestinian trade unions issued a call for the labor-led action, stating that "Gaza today has become the test of our universal morality and our common humanity." Bay Area members of the Labor for Palestine group, heeding the call, issued a press release saying that the ILWU Local 10 joins with dockworkers in South Africa, western Australia, Sweden and Norway, who have all launched similar actions.

A press release from Labor for Palestine stated: "this action stands in the proud tradition of West Coast dockworkers who refused to handle cargo for Nazi Germany (1934) and fascist Italy (1935); those in Denmark and Sweden (1963), the San Francisco Bay Area (1984) and Liverpool (1988), who refused shipping for apartheid South Africa; those in Oakland who refused to load bombs for the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile (1978); and those at all 29 West Coast ports who held a May Day strike against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (2008)."

Monadel Herzallah, organizer with Labor for Palestine and the Arab-American Union Members Council, told The Electronic Intifada that the Port of Oakland remains a beacon of global justice activism tradition with the ILWU:

"They have been courageous and have stood in principle to support different issues. Today, the SF Labor Council, the Alameda Central Labor Council, and dozens of other labor councils have responded to the call by Palestinian labor unions to block the ship and make a statement -- after the flotilla incident, there's no way that Israel can conduct business as usual. Having this type of action at this moment in the US, a supporter of the injustice being done by Israel, is quite significant."

ILWU Local 10 member Clarence Thomas said that the action would raise the stakes and encourage other labor unions to broaden their education around the Palestine issue. "The world is watching," Thomas told EI. "There hasn't been any significant labor action responding to Israel's actions [until now]. Israel's naked aggression in international waters is very difficult to ignore. With this action today, this is the start [of a broader movement]. This is going to be a very important, a very historic day ... This is a teaching moment."

Thomas told EI that crossing the picket line raises an issue of health and safety for the workers, which was cited as the official reason ILWU shifts were cancelled (with full pay). In 2003, in a similar action against the loading of weapons and military equipment bound for US-occupied Iraq, both protesters and longshore workers were wounded by Oakland police officers who fired wooden dowels, sting balls, tear gas and percussion grenades after the crowd refused to disperse. "We don't want our workers put in the middle again," Thomas said.

Labor organizers handed out flyers to truckers, dockworkers and other port workers on their way to work, explaining what happened on 31 May to the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and urging workers not to handle Israeli cargo "until the blockade in Gaza is ended." Workers turned around and went back home, many of them honking their horns in support of the picket.

After the first shift of workers decided not to cross the picket line following arbitration meetings, protest organizers urged activists to stay and block gates for the second shift. By 6:30pm, the second shift decided to honor the picket and refused to come to work. Meanwhile, the Israeli cargo ship arrived at the docks, but no one was there to unload it.

Wael Bheisy, a Palestinian refugee from Kuwait whose parents were expelled from Palestine after 1948, said he was at the protest to send a message of solidarity to his relatives in Gaza. "They live in a big jail ... and that this is happening in this day and age is just unbelievable to me. We're here to take action and make the world listen. No country should continue to have normal relations with the State of Israel, or any government that practices, in everyday policy, such brutal oppression against a people."

Bheisy said that this action could make a huge impact across the country and the world. "This is historic, this is unprecedented. As we know, in the '70s and '80s, the anti-apartheid movement against South Africa was launched. And it's disappointing that thirty years later, we're here again. But it's an action that's hopefully going to spark similar actions. For the first time, we stopped Israeli goods from unloading in the United States."

Port Of Oakland Labor/Community Mass Picket Stops Loading Of Israeli Zim Ship For 24 Hours
On June 20, 2010, a labor and community picket line was put up at the SSA terminal at the port of
Oakland to protest the Israeli Zim Shenzhen ship. The picket was called to protest the Israeli blockade
of Gaza and the apartheid wall. The committee called the Labor/Community Committee in Solidarity
with the People of Palestine brought hundreds to the picket line including many trade unionists.
The Transport Workers Solidarity Committee TWSC www.transportworkers.org is working to support
an international labor blockade of Israel. Dockworkers from Sweden and Norway will also be launching
a labor boycott of all cargo and ships from Israel starting June 15, 2010.
Production of Labor Video Project P.O. Box 720027, San Francisco, CA 94172
laborvideo.blip.tv www.laborvideo.org

Submitted by Terry Townsend on Wed, 07/07/2010 - 21:15


July 6, 2010 -- Labor for Palestine -- Dockworkers at the major Indian port of Cochin are refusing to unload Israeli cargo in protest of Israel’s siege of the Gaza Strip.

According to the Indian communist publication People’s Democracy, “The boycott began on June 17 on receipt of information that cargo unloaded at Colombo Port [Sri Lanka] from Israeli ship m/v Zim Livorno 16 was bound to arrive at Cochin Port in a feeder vessel.”

“On June 23, trade unions held a joint protest rally in Cochin Port near the office of Zim Integrated Shipping Services (India) Pvt Ltd – the Israeli shipping line,” the report added. At the demonstration, labour leaders denounced Israel’s attack on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in May which left nine people dead.

Representatives of several trade unions—including those aligned with both left and right wing parties— joined the demonstration.

The port of Cochin, in the state of Kerala, is one of the biggest ports in India.

The Cochin dockworkers join workers at ports in Sweden, South Africa, and other countries who have refused to unload Israeli cargo. Calls for boycotts against Israel intensified in the wake of the flotilla raid.

On June 20, dockworkers in Oakland, California, refused to unload an Israeli cargo ship after protesters picketed at the dock.