Longshore workers across the country face attacks on long-held and hard-won gains in wages and union control over hiring and working conditions. Whatever the outcome of current disputes—from port workers organized by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union at grain terminals in the Northwest to International Longshoremen’s Association-organized workers from Texas to Maine—the rulers’ assaults on the docks has just begun.
These attacks are part of a larger offensive by the bosses, who seek to shore up their profit margins on the backs of working people during a worldwide historic crisis of capitalism.
Along with their anti-union assault, the bosses are pressing a propaganda offensive designed to weaken solidarity. Part of this anti-labor campaign involves highlighting (and often exaggerating) the relatively higher wages of certain sections of the working class under assault. The purpose is to foster resentments and divisions while promoting the false notion that higher wages of some workers has something to do with lower and declining wages of others. But there is no “pie” from which wages are divided. Wages are determined in the course of struggles against the owners of capital.
The bosses’ smear campaign also includes branding the longshore workers in the New York/New Jersey area as mafia-connected thugs. “Too many people are concerned if they cause the union problems, they will be wearing cement shoes in the river,” International Shipping News wrote in September.
What the capitalists are concerned about is engaging a battle they might not win and the “bad” example that would provide. That’s what happened last year in Longview, Wash., where EGT Development opened a new grain terminal and refused to use union labor. The longshore workers forced EGT to back down, won a union contract and inspired other workers.
The simmering disputes on the docks over the last couple years have brought two things to the fore.
First, the fact that the government is the state power of the employing class comes through clearly—from threats to invoke the Taft-Hartley Act; to restrictions on pickets; to the role of federal “mediators,” cops and courts; to the brutality, frame-ups, fines, and jailings employed in the Longview fight. Second is the potential power of organized working-class resistance to shut down production, win broad support and push the bosses back.
Solidarity with the dockworkers! An injury to one is an injury to all!
Dock workers’ union suspends threat of strike, talks continue
Bosses agree to shelve some concession demands
Northwest longshore workers in contract fight
On the Picket Line
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