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Occupy the Ports Plans Shutdown Up and Down West Coast

Speaking of protests, the latest set of Occupy protests are happening at this hour, as demonstrators attempt to shut down West Coast ports in 14 locations from Anchorage to San Diego. The port of Long Beach is seeing protests at this hour; the call to action began at 5:00am local time. The national leadership of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) has not endorsed the protests, but their rank and file will have to cross what amounts to a picket line to get to work today.

The reasons for the attempted port shutdown have as much to do with the core complaint of Wall Street greed as anything. As Gavin Aronsen writes, one of the main rationales is that Goldman Sachs owns the Stevedoring Services of America, who run several port terminals on the West Coast. Labor strife marks many of the other port situations; 26 truckers in Los Angeles and Long Beach were recently fired for wearing Teamster T-Shirts to work at their non-union sites.

More on the Goldman Sachs angle from Alternet:

Occupy organizer Kari Koch in Portland says that their action is aimed at disrupting business as usual for “Wall Street on the waterfront.” In particular, they are targeting EGT (Export Grain Terminal) and Goldman Sachs. EGT is part of a multinational conglomerate, and the company is engaged a labor struggle with the International Warehouse and Longshore Union in Longview, Wash., and Goldman Sachs, much maligned for its shady business dealings, which were part of the economic collapse, owns half of SSA Marine, which operates four terminals at the Port of Long Beach and also owns the trucking company Shippers Transport Express (more on them below).

“We will be creating a community picket in front of the port, and we expect to have a work stoppage, and we expect the workers to not cross the picket line,” said Koch. “We are disrupting it for one day, but it is also a symbolic action to show that the workers are actually the ones with the power in this country.” Actions are planned at major West Coast ports such as Oakland, Portland, Long Beach, San Diego, Seattle, and others, but solidarity actions are springing up as well in Albuquerque, Denver, Houston, Salt Lake City, and even in Japan, where Doro Chiba railway workers plan to strike at a trading partner of EGT.

If work is shut down at the ports, “It’s one more day that Goldman Sachs and Wall Street firms are unable to create profit,” said Koch. And as the website for the action says, “U.S. ports have thus become economic engines for the elite; the 1 percent these trade hubs serve are free to rip the shirts off the backs of the 99 percent, who turn their profits.”

Indeed, the Long Beach action seeks mainly to shut down the SSA Marine terminal. The actions are very targeted.

There’s a larger sense that deregulation of port trucking and the exploitation of workers by large interests necessitated this pushback from activists. The work of port truckers and loaders and longshoremen is difficult and dangerous, and also essential to keep the wheels of capitalism grinding. Port shutdowns have characterized past actions and protests, and inspired change in the labor movement over and over again.

I’ll have more on this action when I hear from some of the folks on the ground. Even though it isn’t a sanctioned ILWU event, I would be surprised if at least some of the normally radical rank and file didn’t walk off the job today. The gears of capitalism will continue to move, but for one day, a little sand will fill them.

UPDATE: I’m told that the parking lot at the SSA dock in Long Beach, the one owned by Goldman Sachs, is empty. Normally by this time it would be full. There’s apparently a pretty large protest contingent in attendance.

FDL’s Kevin Gosztola is liveblogging with video the various port actions at the Dissenter.

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David Dayen

David Dayen