East Coast solidarity with West Coast longshore

The West Coast International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) received support at several East Coast ports from the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) on June 27 as part of a united front of solidarity with the ILWU as it engages in a fierce contract battle with the Pacific Maritime Association. (See page 16 for story on West Coast solidarity events.)

These ILA/Teamster rallies held at the ports of Charleston, S.C., Philadelphia, Jacksonville, Fla., and Savannah, Ga., are very significant to the ILWU as it faces the most challenging contract battle of its history, including a threat of intervention by President Bush in the case of a strike.

Ken Riley, president of Charleston’s ILA Local 1422, addressed the Solidarity Day rally in Oakland, Calif., at the side of James Spinosa, ILWU international president, James Hoffa, general president of the Teamsters, Kees Marges, International Transportation Workers Federation dockers section secretary, representing 5 million global transport workers, and Julian Garcia, general coordinator of the International Dockworkers Council, which represents 30,000 dockworkers worldwide.

Riley told the rally that he was there to reciprocate the solidarity that the ILWU showed his local as it fought to free the Charleston Five, dockers recently freed after being falsely charged with felonies after police attacked their picketline against a ship being loaded by nonunion labor. Riley stated that the ILA is on alert and ready to act to support the ILWU.

Richard Mead, president of ILWU Local 10 presented a plaque to Riley. “What the Charleston Five has meant to labor on the waterfront cannot be put into words,” said Mead. “The East Coast and West Coast are coming together. Our rank and file are walking the same line and we can thank Ken Riley and the Charleston Five for that.”

In Charleston, Riley’s local held a rally at the ILA’s new union hall. Union members wore T-shirts that said “Unity on the Waterfront – ILA, Teamsters, ILWU.”

Peter Ford, vice president of the Charleston ILA local, told the rally of over 400 longshoremen, teamsters, independent truckers and crane operators, “Whatever they [employers] try to do there, they’ll try to do here. If they [the ILWU] stand tall now, they will not try anything on us on the East Coast.”

“The Charleston Five campaign reinvigorated the labor movement,” said Leonard Riley, a Charleston ILA leader. “There is now a fire burning in labor that will not be put out.”

Leonard Riley told the World that the results of the ILWU negotiations are very important to port workers on the East Coast. “We will be facing the same people in our negotiations in a year and a half. So we intend to support the ILWU in every way we can,” he said.

At the Port of Philadelphia, over 200 workers also rallied in support of the ILWU. IBT leaders from the Philadelphia Teamsters District Council and Local 107 joined Sal Candelara, president of ILA Local 1291, in emphasizing to the rally the significance of the new unity of longshore and Teamsters unions. “We are together now and will be from now on,” Candelara stressed.

Royce Adams, vice president of Local 107, told the rally, “The ILWU has always been militant in its fight for all working people, putting into practice its slogan – an injury to one is an injury to all. Today we pledge our solidarity with them.”

“The threatened intervention by the Bush administration in the ILWU negotiations will also affect our future on the East Coast and the 230,000 United Parcel Service workers in their negotiations,” stressed Adams. “That is why the three largest transportation unions must stand together.”

The author can be reached at evnalarcon@aol.com