500 Rally For Neptune Jade Defendants - By Steve Zeltzer
February 1998. In a significant sign of labor solidarity and support for democratic rights, nearly 500 people protested at the Oakland offices of the Pacific Maritime Ass on Feb 26, 1998. The rally and march to the Alameda County Court house was called by the Liverpool Dockers Defense Committee and the International Longshore & Warehouse Union. It was supported by virtually the entire leadership of the trade union movement in the Bay Area.
On September 28 of last year, dozens of people picketed the Yusen Terminal in Oakland to protest the unloading of the Neptune Jade which had cargo from a port controlled by the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company. The company had fired 500 dockers for suppo rting a picket line and fighting privatization. Last month, the Liverpool dockers were forced to accept a financial settlement but two of the dockers attended the rally. Liverpool Dock stewards Bobby Morton and Tony Nelson both thanked the ILWU and the Ne ptune Jade picketers for giving them real international support.
The ILWU longshore workers refused to unload the cargo and as a result the ship left the Bay Area with the scab cargo. In an effort to punish and silence the protestors, the PMA sued Inland Boatman's Union SF Chair Robert Irminger. Irminger is also the C hair of the Golden Gate Chapter of The Labor Party and the PMA sued the chapter as well as the Laney College Labor Studies Student Association and Jack Heyman, executive board member of ILWU Local 10.
The reaction to the suit by California labor has been significant. Thousands of dollars has been contributed to the legal defense and the California Federation of Labor as well as all the Bay Area labor councils have endorsed the case.(copies of the reso lutions are available from the Defense Committee)
The rally also had delegations from other ports on the coast. Delegations attended from Portland and Seattle and Los Angeles.
Tony Mazzocchi, National Organizer of the Labor Party announced that he was attending the rally because he had been mandated to go by the National Leadership in order to show solidarity.
He also announced that the Labor Party was "rolling out" a labor law platform this coming summer that would provide labor rights for all working people.
Besides unionists that spoke, former California governor Jerry Brown and Oakland City Councilman and Moulder's Union offical Ignacio DeLaFente also spoke.
Organized labor support for the labor party is stronger in the Bay Area than most parts of the country. Many Bay Area Labor Councils have endorsed the party and many locals have either endorsed or affiliated to the Labor Party.
After the speakers and music at the PMA office the hundreds of unionists took over the streets and marched to the Alameda County Court house where more speakers spoke as well as a skit performed by Art & Revolution.
I spoke for the Golden Gate Chapter of the Labor Party and pointed out that the Labor Party stood clearly for labor rights not only in the US but around the world.
There is a double standard in this country. The Democrats and Republicans have passed law s in this country that are totally one sided against labor and our rights. Unionists have no right to have labor solidarity around the world but corporations can help each other bust unions from the US to England and Korea.
I also pointed out that worker s are continuing to fight for their rights even in difficult circumstances and that the recent rejection of a two tier contract by the Caterpillar UAW members was a victory for all workers. I also welcomed the unionists and their locals to attend the upco ming Labor Party Convention in November and to think about the possibility of running as Labor Party candidates in the future.
Following a skit, the protest moved on to Laney College where another support rally was held.
Fearing the protest, the PMA had managed to get the court date changed to March 3, 1998 and another rally was held at that event. Brian McWilliams attended the rally and said that the ILWU would not rest until all charges are dropped. While there was a t elevision blackout on the march and rally, the Oakland Tribune and the East Bay Edition of the San Francisco Chronicle covered the rally.
Labor Party members and chapters should help continue to build support for this fight by endorsing the aims of the committee, making a finanical contribution and inviting a speaker or requesting a video on the struggle.
An important Labor Party regional tour was held on the East Coast in February by defendant Jack Heyman and East Bay Labor Party member Beth Youhn to build support for the case. The tour was initiated by supporters of the LPNDB.
A victory in this case will surely benefit labor's right to picket in other areas around the country.
Labor Solidarity Has No Borders!