Monday, 12 December 2011

Occupy movement shuts down the West Coast

Today, the Occupy movement has initiated a coordinated blockade of ports on the West Coast of America. Before noon, the ports of Portland, Longview, Oakland and Vancouver had been successfully shut down. Long Beach, Los Angeles, Seattle and Anchorage also saw significant disruption.

As I've said before, the US Occupy movement is well ahead of its counterparts elsewhere in terms of both militancy and class consciousness. Kari Koch, an organizer with Shut Down the Ports Working Group of Occupy Portland, summed up the sentiments behind the action, saying “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!”

Since the action was announced, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union have disowned the action. Robert McEllrath, ILWU International President, states that the Occupy action is not "sanctioned by the membership of the ILWU or informed by the local and International leadership." He goes on to clarify that "we ask only that our internal process be respected and that whatever transpires not be in our name as we have not taken part in the call for that action." Thus, the union is largely avoiding any fallout that could afflict them after the fact, whilst leaving Occupy to get on with their own thing as long as it's not done in their name.

Regardless of the ILWU's comments, this has to be seen as a positive because, whilst the union's dispute certainly deserves solidarity, the move to shut down the West Coast is part of something much wider. Individual disputes still need to be fought, but we also need much broader direct action as a class - of which economic blockades are one particularly potent form. As the organisers say, the point is to “disrupt the economic machine that benefits the wealthiest individuals and corporations."