Occupy Brings Protest to Oakland Port
Today protesters are trying to shut down ports along the West Coast. In Oakland, protesters gathered around 5:30 a.m. at the West Oakland BART station. Our reporter Andrew Stelzer estimated about a thousand who then marched through the streets of West Oakland. From AP:
The protesters are targeting the locations because they believe American ports have become “economic engines for the elite.” They are most upset by two West Coast companies — giant West Coast port operator SSA Marine and grain exporter EGT — that they believe epitomize the big corporations that make up the “1 percent.” Goldman Sachs owns a major stake in SSA Marine, and the bank has been a repeated target of Occupy protesters since the movement began. The two port companies have also engaged in high-profile clashes with union workers lately, and the Occupy protesters want to stand up for the workers.
More live coverage online:
10:30 p.m. Signing Off
We’re calling it a day on the blogging Occupy front. We’ll be back tomorrow morning here on News Fix and on KQED Radio with the latest.
7:40 p.m. Occupy protestors decided to continue the protest during the general assembly, with some protestors staying at the berths until the 3 a.m. shift tomorrow morning.
6:10 p.m. KQED’s Caitlin Esch says that hundreds of protestors are gathered at berths 55 and 56 in Oakland. “It’s a dance party atmosphere, there trucks with huge amps on them and people are just dancing in the street,” she said.
Protestors are holding a general assembly at the port at 7 p.m. to decide whether to extend the blockade until the 3 a.m. shift, since employers did not order any workers for Monday’s evening shift.
4:58 p.m. The story according to the Chron…
No longshore workers will be called in to the Port of Oakland tonight as Occupy protesters renew their efforts to blockade the docks, according to a spokesman for the International Longshore Workers Union. The decision, which could effective close port operations for the evening, came as several hundred protesters gathered outside Oakland City Hall at Frank Ogawa Plaza and began marching toward the waterfront behind a large banner that declared, “Port Closing.”
4:15 p.m. The story according to the Port of Oakland
Protesters have already declared victory today; looks like the port is trying to do the same. It issued a press release this afternoon called “Myths and Facts About the Port of Oakland Protests”:
While news reports today have for the most part accurately described protest activity at the Port of Oakland today, some incorrect information and rumors persist. The Port would like to separate fact from rumor:
Myth: The Port of Oakland is closed.
The Port is not closed. Operations have continued throughout the day after sporadic interruptions due to the morning protest activities.
As for the rest of the day and overnight, the Port anticipates very limited terminal activity.
Myth: The Port of Oakland was shut down today.
The Port remained operational today, even though there were disruptions throughout the morning that affected terminal operations and truck traffic. Trucks were moving cargo into and out of Port facilities as early as 7:00 a.m. and into and out of the majority of facilities by 10:30 a.m.
No ships were loaded or unloaded today. Yard and gate operations at some terminals continued regarding cargo that had already been unloaded. Some terminals could not operate at all because of protesters.
Myth: Shifts were cancelled.
Terminal operators are responsible for ordering and cancelling shifts. No shifts were cancelled today. Some Longshoremen were unable to report to work for health and safety reasons. Some were released due to the inability to fill a labor order. As a result, some terminals were unable to operate normally.
Myth: Some or all terminals were closed today.
All terminals opened today. Some were unable to accept cargo due to protesters.
Myth: Oakland was the only west coast port impacted.
We understand from news reports that operators at the Port of Portland shut two terminals, affecting four ship operations. As a result, 200 Longshoreman were not able to work there. At the Port of LA and Long Beach, there was apparently minor operational impact and protesters were dispersed this morning. At the Port of Seattle, protest activity is expected later today and tonight.
Myth: Customs enforcement personnel were not at all terminals.
Some terminals experienced a delay in Customs personnel arrival.
Myth: An arbitrator was called in and sent Longshoremen home.
Not true. Under the labor agreement between the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), an arbitrator may be called to determine if it is safe for workers to report to work. In this case, PMA decided not to call out the arbitrator. It remains possible that the ILWU may still request an arbitration to determine if they should to be paid for the inability to report to work but at no time today was an arbitrator called.
4:07 p.m. Scott Olsen speaks
Here’s a video interview with Scott Olsen at today’s demonstration, giving an update on his health. The Iraqi War vet was critically injured by a projectile, ostensibly thrown by police, during a clash with Occupy Oakland protesters in October.
3:35 p.m. Occupy Oakland rally
2:55 p.m. Terminal closure
TTI’s announcement that its Oakland terminal was unable to open for business today.
Due to protesters who have congregated in front of the terminal’s main gate TTI will be unable to open for business today. We will resume operations tomorrow at the normal time.
2:05 p.m. Labor union support — or not
Whether or not the affected labor unions support today’s action is a big topic of debate. On one side of the issue: An Open Letter from America’s Port Truck Drivers on Occupy the Ports, signed by three port drivers and two other truckers:
We are the front-line workers who haul container rigs full of imported and exported goods to and from the docks and warehouses every day.
We have been elected by committees of our co-workers at the Ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle, Tacoma, New York and New Jersey to tell our collective story. We have accepted the honor to speak up for our brothers and sisters about our working conditions despite the risk of retaliation we face. One of us is a mother, the rest of us fathers. Between the five of us we have 11children and one more baby on the way. We have a combined 46 years of experience driving cargo from our shores for America’s stores.
We are inspired that a non-violent democratic movement that insists on basic economic fairness is capturing the hearts and minds of so many working people. Thank you “99 Percenters” for hearing our call for justice. We are humbled and overwhelmed by recent attention. Normally we are invisible.
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? Full letter
The letter goes on to describe poor working conditions and a loss of labor rights in the trucking industry.
Representing a different view: From Chronicle columnist Andrew S. Ross this weekend, Union not keen on new Occupy Oakland:
(T)he folks [protesters] purport to be in solidarity with don’t seem hot on the idea to “effectively shut down the hubs of commerce” at all.
“Any actions organized by outside groups, including the proposed Dec. 12 shutdown of various terminals on the West Coast, have not been vetted by our union’s democratically led process,” the International Longshore and Warehouse Union said. “Any decisions made by groups outside of the union’s democratic process do not hold water, regardless of the intent.”
The Occupy movements that make a fetish of applying direct democracy and near absolute consensus to its own decision making might want to take note of that.
Richard Mead, president of ILWU Local 10, which represents dockworkers at the Port of Oakland, said, “Our position is in the international’s press release. We’re not facilitating (Occupy Oakland’s strike call) in any way. We just want that clear.”
Jeff Smith, president of ILWU Local 8 in Portland, Ore., went further, telling the Portland Tribune his union won’t honor picket lines. “This is a third-party strike. We have to go to work,” he said.
A couple of weeks ago, KQED’s Mina Kim spoke to Occupy Oakland’s Barucha Peller, who described herself as a member of the Coordinated West Coast Port Blockade Assembly. Peller talks about the Occupy movement’s reasons for focusing on the port. The conversation speaks to the question and perhaps some of the contradictions inherent in an outside group taking on an issue specific to organized labor. Edited transcript:
What is the port action about?
It’s about shutting down Wall Street on the waterfront. Shutting down Goldman Sachs, which owns a part of the SSA terminal, and EGT, a multiational grain exporter rupturing longshoremen jurisdiction in Longview, Washington.
We’ve identified the fact that a the 1% makes a great deal of its profit on the ports and on the backs of exploited labor.
Have you been working with longshoremen?
We’ve been working with rank-and-file longshoremen. Legally, no union can sanction a strike. There are no-strike clauses. But we’re not asking for a strike, we’re asking for a blockade like on Nov 2.
Historically, since the anti-apartheid movement, people will go down and create community pickets and shut down the ports. These ports are public, anyone can go down there and protest. We know that the longshoremen rank and file largely support the aims of the Occupy movement.
As well, this west coast coordinated port blockade is in solidarity with the longshoremen’s struggle against EGT in Longview Washington, which is ruptuing their jurisdition and is a direct threat to the survival of the ILWU. While the ILWU international may not be able to officially say anything about the port blockade, this is a large number of people taking on the issues that we all have with the 1%. EGT is not only a longshoreman issue, but they have economically plundered people from Argentina to Brazil and all around the world… And of course, Goldman Sachs owns a large part of the SSA terminal, and we all know what Goldman Sachs has done to a large part of our communities.
How would you respond to people who say that shutting down the port would hurt members of the 99% like truckers and other workers who need the shift?
It’s the same thing as in the general strike, where the right wing tried to accuse occupy Oakland of hurting small businesses. But we all have to make a sacrifice here, to strike back against the 1% and take our lives back from the 1%. This is what this movement is all about.
Did anyone from the Longview union ask you guys to shut down the port in solidarity with their fight?
No. The occupation movement doesn’t need to take marching orders from anyone. It’s a mass of people self-organizing to get their material needs met and to strike back against he 1%. Of course we’ve been aware of the issue in Longview and applauding the resistance by the longshoremen up in Longview for resisting EGT, but like I said, EGT and other companies operating up there are a concern of everyone.
Nobody from the longshoremen has asked the Occupy movement to do anytning.
Are you worried about support from the union’s rank and file, or do you think you definitely have their support?
The rank and file traditionally will honor community picket lines around social justice issues. I think the longshoremen are not unaware of the aims of the Occupy movement and a lot of those aims speak to them as well. Rank and file are also part of the Occupy movement, not separate. Across the board, rank and file union members as well as non-unionized workers, make up a large part of the Occupy movement.
Any plans to coordinate more with the ILWU?
It’s a very sad thing what’s happened to the unions in the U.S. because of no-strike clauses and different legal ramifications. It’s sad that unions have to distance themselves from things like this for fear of being sued.
Nobody can speak for the leadership of the ILWU. But working class people understand that EGT and Goldman Sachs are Wall Street on the waterfront, and it’s important to shut down Wall Street because of the way these big companies have plundered our lives.
1 p.m. Workers sent home
In Oakland, shipping companies and the longshoremen’s union agreed to send home about 150 workers, essentially halting operations at two terminals. In Portland, authorities shuttered two terminals after arresting two people who were carrying weapons.
12:30 p.m. Quan presser
The press conference by Jean Quan and other Oakland officials was short and not particularly informative. Quan thanked police and protesters for keeping things peaceful. She asked the protesters to “respect the rights of the 99%” who are trying to work.
Quan also said the Port of Oakland is unique because it’s the “only port in the country” that exports more than imports. She said it’s particularly critical for agricultural shipments, and that 800,000 jobs across the country are linked to port shipments.
A reporter asked whether Quan has had a change of heart about actions against the port, as her husband had been out with protesters last month, during the general strike, when the port was shut down for a few hours. Quan said she has never supported any shutdown of the port, and that her husband was a “community monitor” during the first action.
Interim Police Chief Howard Jordan said there have been reports of violence or injury.
A port official said merely that there have been “impacts” at the terminals, mostly “backups” in terms of the truck traffic. He said he didn’t know if reports from protesters that “no ships were unloaded today” were true or not.
We have calls out to the ILWU and the operator of one of the terminals, TTI, regarding the claim by protesters that the union has sent some workers home.
12:15 p.m. Live now from KGO, a news conference regarding the Port of Oakland situation. Mayor Jean Quan, City Administerator Deanna Santana, Chief of Police Howard Jordan, and port officials will speak.
11:53 a.m. Photographic recap put together by KQED’s Ian Hill.
11:15 a.m. Protesters Declare Victory
KQED reporters Caitlin Esch and Andrew Stelzer report that Occupy protesters are leaving the Port of Oakland and declaring their efforts a success. The protesters blocked two terminals that were expecting shipments today. Drivers are starting to turn around their trucks and protesters are making their way back to Oakland. It is unclear whether protesters and workers will report for the Port’s second shift, which begins at 7:00 p.m. However, Hanjin, the shipping company that operates out of the blocked terminals has posted this notice online: “Due to protesters who have congregated in front of the terminal’s main gate TTI will be unable to open for business today. We will resume operations tomorrow at the normal time.”
9:45 a.m. Former Quan Advisor at Port Protest
(Bay City News) – Oakland attorney Dan Siegel, Mayor Jean Quan’s former legal adviser, was among those participating in the march to the port this morning. Siegel resigned as Quan’s unpaid legal adviser on Nov. 14, the morning that police raided the Occupy Oakland encampment outside City Hall. He was leaving this morning’s protest at about 7:20 a.m., heading to a client’s court hearing.
9:40 a.m. Truckers Left Waiting
(Bay City News) – As of 9 a.m., hundreds of protesters had blocked off the entrance to Berths 30-32, and Alamed a County sheriff’s deputies were keeping an eye on hundreds more who had gathered at the entrance to Berths 55-56.
Dozens of trucks were lined up outside both entrances as drivers waited to get into the port. One truck driver, who declined to give his name, said he had come from Santa Rosa and had been waiting since 5 a.m. He said he anticipates that the port will be closed all day and is awaiting instructions on what to do with his cargo.
Protester Shake Anderson, who said he has been involved in the Occupy Oakland movement since the beginning, said the demonstrators’ strategy is to keep a large crowd at the port to make it difficult for police to makearrests.
“It’s all about numbers,” he said.
9:11 a.m. Trucker: ‘They Should Protest at the White House, Not Where I Am Trying to Make a Living’
8:45 a.m. Report: Three Ports Blocked
Caitlin Esch, who is at the port now, says at least three gates at the port are effectively blocked, with nothing moving in or out as protesters clog up the entrances. Trucks are lined up, some trying to drop off, some trying to pick up.
“A lot of the truckers came in from far away — Nevada, Denver, Kansas, and so they’re not leaving until they complete their task,” Esch says. The truckers say they’re going to be living in their trucks until they can complete their assignments. One trucker whom Esch talked to was trying to drop off beef from Denver; he was extremely angry.
An Occupy Oakland organizer said the group would try to have at least 100 people marching in front of each entrance, but the three that Caitlin Esch has observed so far have had more than that number.
8:06 a.m. Protestor’s Live Stream
Live video stream from Spencer Mills (aka OakFoSho on Twitter), who has been live-streaming Occupy Oakland protests:
Occupy Movement Tries to Shut Down West Coast Ports
(AP) OAKLAND, Calif. — Anti-Wall Street protesters along the West Coast joined an effort Monday to blockade some of the nation’s busiest docks, with the idea that if they cut off the ports, they cut into corporate profits.
The protesters are targeting the locations because they believe American ports have become “economic engines for the elite.” They are most upset by two West Coast companies — giant West Coast port operator SSA Marine and grain exporter EGT — that they believe epitomize the big corporations that make up the “1 percent.”
Goldman Sachs owns a major stake in SSA Marine, and the bank has been a repeated target of Occupy protesters since the movement began. The two port companies have also engaged in high-profile clashes with union workers lately, and the Occupy protesters want to stand up for the workers.
Several hundred people began picketing at the Port of Oakland before dawn and blocked some trucks from going inside. Police are monitoring at the scene, but no major clashes have been reported so far. Occupy protesters successfully shut down the port in November.
In Southern California, as many as 400 demonstrators gathered in a park and planned to march on the Port of Long Beach. Occupy protesters said they plan to head to a dock facility owned by SSA Marine.
About 300 people gathered at Kelly Point Park in Portland, Ore., and Kari Koch, organizer with Shut Down the Ports Working Group of Occupy Portland, said she expected hundreds more to picket the nearby terminal. Police arrested three people and seized a gun and sword from people who said they were on the way to the demonstration.
Occupy groups also planned blockades in Seattle, Tacoma, Wash., and Vancouver, British Columbia.
The protests being billed as action against “Wall Street on the waterfront” are perhaps the Occupy movement’s most dramatic gesture since police raids sent most remaining camps scattering last month. Demonstrators began forming those camps around the country about two months ago to protest what they call corporate greed and economic inequality.
“We will not stand for corporate profits at the expense of working people, we will not stand for attacks on workers, and we will not allow our schools to be closed, social services slashed, and families to be impoverished by your greed!” Koch said Monday in statement.