(Protesters march to the entrance of Port of Portland Terminal 5 during “Occupy Portland” to attempt to shut down west coast ports in Oregon December 12, 2011. Yahoo/REUTERS/Steve Dipaola)
“OAKLAND, Calif. — Hundreds of Wall Street protesters blocked gates at some of the West Coast’s busiest ports on Monday, causing the partial shutdown of several in a day of demonstrations they hope will cut into the profits of the corporations that run the docks.
The closures affected some of the terminals at the ports in Oakland, Calif., Portland, Ore., and Longview, Wash., though it was not immediately clear how much the shutdowns would affect operations and what the economic loss would be.
From California to as far away as Vancouver, British Columbia, protesters picketed gates, beating drums, carrying signs such as “Shutdown Wall St. on the Waterfront” and causing longer wait times for trucks.
There were a handful of arrests so far, but no major clashes with police.
While the demonstrations were largely peaceful and isolated to a few gates at each port, local officials in the union that represents longshoremen and, in some cases, port officials, determined that the conditions were unsafe for workers.
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.
And in Longview, Wash., workers were sent home out of concerns for their “health and safety.”
The movement, which sprang up this fall against what it sees as corporate greed and economic inequality, is focusing on the ports as the “economic engines for the elite” in its most dramatic gesture since police raids cleared out most remaining Occupy tent camps last month.
It was unclear whether demonstrators could amass in sufficient numbers to significantly disrupt or force more port closures as they did last month during an overnight shift at the Port of Oakland. The union that represents longshoremen says it doesn’t support the shutdowns.
Protesters are most upset by two West Coast companies: port operator SSA Marine and grain exporter EGT. The bank, Goldman Sachs, owns a major stake in SSA Marine and has been a frequent target of protesters.
They say they are standing up for workers against the port companies, which have had high-profile clashes with union workers lately. Longshoremen at the Port of Longview, for example, have had a longstanding dispute with EGT.
In Oakland, officials urged protesters to consider the impact on workers. Port workers and truck drivers say the protests will hurt them.
Several hundred people picketed at the port before dawn and blocked some trucks from going through at least two entrances. A long line of big rigs sat outside one of the entrances, unable to drive into the port.
“This is joke. What are they protesting?” said Christian Vega, 32, who sat in his truck carrying a load of recycled paper from Pittsburg, Calif., on Monday morning. He said the delay was costing him $600.
“It only hurts me and the other drivers. We have jobs and families to support and feed. Most of them don’t,” Vega said.”~Washington Post
“The nationally coordinated, brutal police attacks on the Occupy Movement were supported by the 1%, and now we will strike back with our own coordinated attack on the 1% - a West Coast Port blockade and shutdown on December 12th in order to economically disrupt “wall street on the waterfront.”
When we say “Wall street on the waterfront” we point particularly to EGT and Goldman Sachs. The West Coast Ports will be blockaded on December 12th in solidairty with longshoremen and port truckers struggles against EGT and Goldman Sachs.
EGT is an multinational grain exporter consortium. Bunge Ltd is the largest partner in ETG who reported 2.5 billion dollars in profit last year alone and has direct ties to Wall Street and has caused economic despair in countries such as Argentina, Brazil, and now the United States. EGT has been rupturing ILWU jurisdiction in Longview, Washington and bringing in scab labor.
We will blockade all the ports on the West Coast in solidarity with the Longshoremen in Longview in their struggle against EGT. We are also blockading the ports in solidarity with the struggle of port truckers against Goldman Sachs. The blockade is also intended to disrupt the profits of the 1% by showing solidarity with those who are under direct attack – exerting the collective muscle of the west coast occupies.
Goldman Sachs owns a large part of the SSA port terminals and is guilty of facilitating the exploitation of non-union and short-run, port truck drivers who have struggled for dignified and humane conditions in the workplace for several years now. These independent truck drivers are majority immigrant workers who are pitted against each other, and receive low wages and unreliable hours while Goldman Sachs, the shipping companies and their underlings reap record profits.
EGT and Goldman Sachs are the 1%. The Occupy movement is committed to shutting down the one percent and is using its collective political power in order to confront the 1% with mass mobilizations that shut down sites of profit.
The giant retail shipping, trucking and global logistics corporations like Wal-Mart, Maersk and Goldman Sachs’ own SSA Marine cooked up a scheme to stick it to America’s port truck drivers long before Wall Street’s greed uprooted Main Street’s middle class. As Salon.comrecently exposed, lax oversight and little regulation has created a shadowy industry that denies drivers their legal right to form a union.
U.S. ports have thus become economic engines for the elite; the 1% these trade hubs serve are free to rip the shirts off the backs of the 99% who turn their profits.
As part of the planned demonstrations, we are committed to exposing these systematic injustices. We pledge both our solidarity and ongoing support to the truck drivers who are uniting to win dignity, respect, and control over their work.
SUPPORT GROWS FOR OCCUPY MOVEMENT’S COORDINATED WEST COAST SHUT DOWN ON DECEMBER 12TH
As of November 27, 2011, the Occupy movement in every major West Coast port city: Occupy LA, Occupy San Diego, Occupy Portland, Occupy Tacoma, Occupy Seattle have joined Occupy Oakland in calling for and organizing a coordinated West Coast Port Blockade and Shutdown on December 12, 2011.