Sources on the Port Action on December 12

I’m trying to educate myself about the port action, how corporations and unions understand the port of Oakland, how it pertains to the truckers and the city as well as the Occupy movement. I’ll be updating this all day. In the meantime:

    1. Section 717.3 talks about funds and how they’re allocated. Ninth and last on that list is the item concerning how monies could (conceivably, but never practically) return to the City of Oakland: “Ninth: For transfer to the General Fund of the City, to the extent that the Board shall determine that surplus moneys exist in such fund which are not then needed for any of the purposes above stated.”
    2. Surprising (to me—I’m new to city charters) was the conflation of transportation by sea, land, and air, such that hubs for all three fall under the Board of the Port of Oakland’s jurisdiction:

Section 717 (1). All Port facilities, airport facilities and terminal facilities of any kind or character are hereby consolidated and shall be operated as a single project by the Board in the interest of transportation by land, by sea and by air, it being hereby found and determined that transportation facilities of all classes implement and augment each other to such an extent that the same must in the public interest be operated singly and under one central supervision and control. Wherever in this Charter the terms “port”, “project”, or “facilities” are used, the same shall include all facilities under the jurisdiction of the Board, irrespective of whether the same shall be port or airport facilities or other real or personal property or equipment of the Port and related improvements, structures or facilities.

  1. Section 726 explains that the Board’s power includes the ability to apply terms, conditions and limits to federal uses of the port and its surroundings:

Section 726. Without denial or disparagement of other powers now held by or that may hereafter be given to the City of Oakland or its legislative bodies under or by the Constitution or the laws of the State of California, the City Council and Board of Port Commissioners are hereby authorized and empowered to grant and convey all or any portion of or interest in the tidelands and submerged lands located in the Middle Harbor area of the City, lying between the Estuary of San Antonio and Seventh Street, and westward of Bay Street extended southerly, to the United States of America for public and governmental (including military or naval) purposes, subject to such terms, conditions, and reservations, if any, as the Council and Board shall deem proper.

      • A thorough and extremely useful overview of the tensions surrounding the port action–thanks to Evan Rohar and Eduardo Soriano-Castillo at Labor Notes (via @AhabLives).
      • Emily Loftis’ article for Salon on how Occupy is redemocratizing labor, and how the unions are caught in an uncomfortable place between occupiers and the Democratic Party. This piece is not without its problems; see the comments for why.
      • ILWU International President Robert McEllrath’s letter rejecting Occupy solidarity—and asking that Occupiers not mention the dispute with EGT as a reason for the port occupation. Raises the neverending (and, to my mind, insoluble) question of what “solidarity” means, particularly when it’s unwanted.
      • Gavin Aronsen’s article for Mother Jones on the scope of the projected shutdown and the complicated question of union involvement.
      • A summary of the conflict between ILWU and EGT at Labor Notes: “EGT Development, a consortium of three companies, wants to operate its new $200 million grain terminal in Longview using non-ILWU labor, despite a contract with the port requiring it to do so. When the ILWU protested, the company signed up with an Operating Engineers local.” (This story is illustrated with a photo of ILWU International President Robert McEllrath being detained by police.)

In a series of protests since July, ILWU members and supporters sat down on train tracks and occupied the new terminal, resulting in 100 arrests. As picketing continued, no trains had attempted to bring in grain shipments since July. But last week a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order at the request of the National Labor Relations Board, which said ILWU pickets had harassed EGT workers.

    • An open letter from America’s Port Truck Drivers on Occupy the Ports–especially important, since the truckers are the most vulnerable members of this whole mess, and probably suffered the greatest (proportionate) economic hardship as a result of both the port action and of the lack of a union:

Today’s demonstrations will impact us. While we cannot officially speak for every worker who shares our occupation, we can use this opportunity to reveal what it’s like to walk a day in our shoes for the 110,000 of us in America whose job it is to be a port truck driver. It may be tempting for media to ask questions about whether we support a shutdown, but there are no easy answers. Instead, we ask you, are you willing to listen and learn why a one-word response is impossible?

    • Steve Stallone at Counterpunch outlines the history of this kind of action, particularly as it pertains to the ILWU. He characterizes the Occupy movement as picking up on a long ILWU, and explains the goals of the shutdown:

This time the Occupiers are doing it to highlight the nasty anti-union tactics of a major international food and grain conglomerate, Export Grain Terminal (EGT), whose majority owner, Bunge Ltd. is a multi-national company busting unions from Texas to Bulgaria to Argentina and is also deeply involved with corporate takeover of food systems, displacing local agriculture with soybean monoculture. EGT is trying to break the labor standards and jurisdiction of the ILWU by bringing in scabs to load their grain ships at the Port of Longview.

In Southern California, at the huge port complex of Los Angeles/Long Beach, the Occupy blockades are adding another political target. They will focus on the terminal of one of the worst offenders of the 1% on the Coast—Stevedoring Services of America (SSA)—to highlight the plight of the port truckers. These “independent contractors,” mostly immigrant workers who haul the shipped containers to warehouses and other points of destination, have been trying to organize into the Teamsters for over a decade so they could bargain and raise their pathetic pay.

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