By Stacey Rodgers
On Friday, May 1 – International Workers Day, otherwise known as May Day, about 2,000 people came together to march and protest the unjust murders of mainly Black and Brown people in the U.S. at the hands of police.
The event, “Labor Against Police Terror,” drew labor unions and community groups to the Port of Oakland.
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 10 led the day of action marching from the Port of Oakland to Oscar Grant Plaza (at Oakland City Hall).
ILWU has a long and proud history of participating in actions against social injustice, starting with its formation during the San Francisco strike of 1934 where two workers were killed by police.
Other actions have included anti-apartheid actions against South Africa, shutting down the Port of Oakland in 2010 in support of justice for Oscar Grant, and protest of Israeli Zim ships.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was made an honorary member of Local 10 just six months before his death.
The impetus behind the May Day 2015 action was the murder of Walter Scott in Charleston, South Carolina.
Scott was related to several Charleston longshoremen of the International Longshoreman Association (ILA) Local 1422. ILA Local 1422 and ILWU Local 10 have a strong history of solidarity.
Both locals are predominantly Black and have supported each other in actions throughout the years.
In addition, Local 10 has suffered its share of police terror. In 2012, Jerimiah Moore was killed by Vallejo police and last year Pedie Perez was killed by Richmond police. Both are families of longshoremen.
During April’s Local 10 executive board meeting, a motion was made to support the Charleston longshoremen in whatever action they choose to seek justice for Walter Scott.
A amendment to the motion was made that ILWU Local 10 hold its monthly stop work meeting on May 1, effectively shutting down the Port of Oakland and march and protest the senseless murders of mainly Black and Brown people by police.
The motion passed at the general membership meeting two days later.
With two weeks to plan and implement the march, the call went out to other unions and community groups. The response was far better than expected.
Several unions joined in solidarity, as did various community groups in and around Oakland.
Thus us the first time in U.S history that a labor union had initiated a protest against the police.
The rally started at Berth 62 at the port.
The march, led by the Local 10 drill team, began at 10 a.m. wound through the Acorn community of West Oakland and ended with a rally at Oscar Grant Plaza.
The goal of the protest was to call attention to the onslaught of police killings and demand that that killings must stop and those responsible be held accountable.
ILWU recognizes its role in the community and knows that when labor disrupts commerce, the 1% will listen and act when their bottom line is affected or threatened.
Workers, union and non-union alike, must come together to take the lead in these actions and exert their rank and file power and not rest upon elected officials.
For far too long the labor community has been silent on these issues and now is the time to renew our role in making things better.
An injury to one is an injury to all.
Stacey Rodgers is a member of the ILWU Local 10 Executive Board.