An Open Letter to Local 10 Longshoremen: Help Stop Repression in Local 19 Seattle!


Note: The author of this post is not in Black Orchid Collective and we do not necessarily endorse all of his views or assertions.  We do think his perspective must be seriously considered in this debate, however, so we wanted to make his letter avaible publicly on the internet. 

AN OPEN LETTER TO LOCAL 10 LONGSHOREMEN:

Help Stop Repression in Local 19 Seattle!

January 18th, 2012

Brothers and Sister of Local 10:

My name is Brian Wiles, and I’m a deregistered longshoreman from ILWU Local 19, Seattle. My ILWU-PMA registration number is #57663. I was deregistered at the behest of Local 19 union officials in 2007, in retaliation for opposing their racist efforts to ethnically cleanse the Seattle waterfront of Black workers. Almost five years later, I still haven’t been given any due process or afforded the benefit of an arbitration over my unfair deregistration.

But this Open Letter ain’t only or even primarily about my personal situation. I’m concerned about the future of the union I still believe in, the ILWU, to which I’ve given a quarter of my life.

I’ve created a YouTube channel at YouTube.com/Deregistered19. There you’ll find some videos that will blow your mind. Officers of Local 19 and three other Longshore Division locals, in a violent mob action, physically broke up a public meeting called to build solidarity for Local 21 Longview’s fight against EGT/Bunge Ltd. union busting. You probably think this sounds far-fetched, and you’ll probably have to see it to believe it. Please take the time to watch these videos, and see for yourself.

I’m trying to sound an alarm to progressive ILWU members up and down the West Coast. Y’all need to understand how longshore locals in the Pacific Northwest ports, and especially Seattle Local 19, have been taken over by repressive, racist right wingers bent on destroying the democratic rights of their own union members, and purging Black and leftwing workers from the waterfront, so they can continue to gerrymander the union membership in a rightwing direction by means of racist hiring practices, intimidation of existing members, and sending goon squads to violently bust up democratically organized labor solidarity meetings.

I’ve been trying to explain how bad things have become on the Seattle waterfront, particularly to Local 10 members, for seven years. I hope Sisters and Brothers will now give this the serious attention it deserves. Now it’s a matter of public record, and with your own eyes you can see a glimpse of what goes on behind closed doors at the Local 19 hall every day, so I hope you’ll do something decisive to put a stop to this problem. Videos don’t lie, even if corrupt rightwing union officers do.

The despicable events at the Seattle AFL-CIO Labor Temple January 6th stand as an indictment of the Pacific Northwest locals of the ILWU, whose officers exposed themselves to be on approximately the same level of human dignity as Nazi stormtroopers or a lynch mob. They must be held accountable for their actions.

At YouTube.com/Deregistered19 you will find four unedited videos, shot at the Labor Temple event and graciously provided to me by a sister from the Seattle branch of the Freedom Socialist Party. Please take the time to watch Part 4 (at http://youtu.be/vS6kt8eJURI) carefully.

A labor solidarity event to build support for ILWU Local 21, Longview, organized by Occupy Seattle jointly with the Million Worker March Movement, is in progress. Local 52 member and African American Longshore Coalition Co-Chair Gabriel Prawl is MC’ing, and ILWU members Mike Fuqua of Local 21, Jack Mulcahy of Local 8, Clarence Thomas and Jack Heyman (retired) of Local 10, are the featured speakers.

After the other three brothers had spoken, Brother Heyman takes the stage and tries to educate the gathering about the role of socialist, leftwing workers in the founding and development of the ILWU. He dedicates his speech to the late Seattle Local 19 president Shaun Maloney, and explains that before he was an ILWU member he was a participant in the 1934 Minneapolis General Strike led by a militant socialist-led local of the Teamsters union. He goes on to explain ILWU founding president Harry Bridges’ early ties to the IWW and his development into a Marxist.

Halfway through Brother Heyman’s presentation, a goon squad of liquored-up ILWU officials arrives to physically bust up the public meeting. This all-white, all-male crew of rightwing hit men included Local 19 Seattle’s President Cam Williams, Vice President Rich Austin Jr., Port Labor Relations Committeeman Rudy Finney, and Executive Board members Chris Peeler and John Persak; Local 52, Seattle Clerks Business Agent Dave Black; President Scotty Mason of Local 23, Tacoma; President Jeff Smith of Local 8, Portland; and Pacific Coast Pensioners Association President and former ILWU International Vice President Rich Austin, Sr.

As anyone watching this (or any of the other videos shot from various angles appearing all over the internet, such as the full length version available at: http://www.livestream.com/owsoccupyseattle/video?clipId=pla_1853b7d2-338e-4b0f-a866-cac43e1ff636) can plainly see, these union bureaucrats storm into the Labor Temple auditorium intentionally to smash up the event.

At one point Scotty Mason attempts to lead his faction to storm the stage, but is prevented by audience members who stand together to defend the stage and the speakers. Later on, the goons shamelessly escalate the situation and provoke a riotous physical altercation by allegedly assaulting a female Occupy activist.

For a well-written, politically-sophisticated account by Occupy Seattle of this organized, violent disruption of the Local 21 solidarity event, see: http://www.occupyseattle.org/blog/2012-01-11/jan-6th-2012-unity-vs-union-bureaucracy

Since the Labor Temple event, Local 19’s January 12th Stop Work Meeting passed a “Resolution Regarding Occupy Seattle”, a blatantly dishonest and slanderous attack against the Occupy movement, an act of sabotage against Local 21’s efforts to conduct outreach for the EGT struggle, and a repressive McCarthy-style measure to curtail the political freedoms of Local 19 members. It begins with a list of outrageously false accusations, including the allegation that Occupy “initiated physical violence against our members” in Seattle, where multiple videos clearly show that the opposite is actually true.

It then goes on to order that “all ILWU Local 19 members withhold all support for ‘Occupy’, formally or informally”. Here is the resolution’s real purpose: To create the conditions for a witch hunt against Local 19 members who participate in or support this new working class movement. This resolution directly violates the First Amendment, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act, and the so-called Union Members Bill of Rights of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure (Landrum-Griffin) Act; it is also illegal under Article III of the ILWU International Constitution, Point #3 of the Ten Guiding Principles of the ILWU, and Section 13.1 of the Pacific Coast Longshore Contract Document, which forbids the parties from discriminating against workers on the basis of, among other protected categories, “political beliefs” and “political affiliation”.

The Local 19 resolution is available as a video here: http://youtu.be/niaF2PkMMoc

That the resolution’s author is none other than Local 19 Executive Board member John Persak—formerly a radical and leader of the Seattle IWW, who for a decade raged against the “repressive ILWU bureaucracy”—makes it doubly hypocritical.

I also note with disgust that Local 19 has never passed a resolution forbidding members from joining, supporting or associating with rightwing or racist groupings such as the Tea Party, the KKK or Aryan Nations; but since McCarthyism seems to be in full swing inside the union now, I hereby volunteer to provide a list of Local 19 members I personally know to be affiliated with such noxious political/racial organizations to anyone who might take steps to do something about it.

This McCarthyite attack against the democratic rights of Seattle longshoremen must be overturned immediately.

The ILWU local officers who led this violent, undemocratic attack against the Occupy Seattle/Million Worker March/Local 21 public community meeting in the hallowed halls of Seattle labor—in the very room in which a real working-class hero Brother Shaun Maloney’s wake was held in 2000—must be taken out of office immediately. Enough is enough. This disgraceful display is just beyond the pale of civilized humanity.

And since this reprehensible assault by drunken thugs appears to have been coordinated jointly between the leaderships of ALL the major Pacific NW longshore locals, it would be interesting to find out just how high up the ladder the planning actually went.

I hope the rank and file of the Longshore Division will find a way to launch an investigation into this matter and hold accountable whoever might have ordered the violent suppression of a community solidarity meeting to assist Local 21’s fight for its life against transnational capital.

An emergency Coast Longshore Caucus—OUR democratic, rank-and-file longshoremen’s “general assembly”—must be called into session immediately, so that the rank and file can discuss and vote about both the appropriate action strategy that needs to be pursued to stop EGT/Bunge Limited’s union busting against ILWU Local 21 and the ILWU’s proper relationship/alliance with the Occupy Movement.

In Solidarity,

Brian Wiles #57663

This entry was posted in Labor, Race, What's up in Seattle and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to An Open Letter to Local 10 Longshoremen: Help Stop Repression in Local 19 Seattle!

  1. Carol Isaac, OS says:

    Mr. Wiles,

    Thank you for giving us a long, detailed description of what happened. Having just been in the MLK march on Monday and now read this on Friday, I don’t have to wonder long what part MLK would be playing at Longview. My support is with you and Longview workers. It was important for me to read this. I was having trouble understanding what was going on, especially after the confusing letter I read today from people opposing Occupy participation.

  2. Prudence Fortis says:

    I too have been trying to come to some understanding of why the January 6 meeting devolved into conflict. It seems that an interpretation of events depends upon one of two assumptions. Either the people who wanted a public reading of a letter by Rob McEllrath were making this request as one belligerent tactic among a series of many to derail the meeting, and by implication derail attempts by Occupy and others to organize. Or these people were genuinely upset because they felt their position was not being heard, and they were being shut out of a process in which they have a stake. As yet, I cannot figure which it was. However, I am not willing to be swayed by a commentator who describes the conduct of participants as “approximately the same level of human dignity as Nazi stormtroopers or a lynch mob”. What I see on the video looks heated (on all sides), but not even “approximately” so dire.

  3. Pingback: Longview, Occupy, and Beyond: Rank and File and the 89% Unite! | Advance the Struggle

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