Port of Oakland: Open for Business

A union executive at the port has declared 'solidarity' with the Occupy movement.

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    The last time there was an attempted work stoppage at the Port of Oakland was in May 2008 as a protest against the Iraq war.

    The Port of Oakland said its open for business as usual, though a spokesperson says "things may change minute to minute."   

    As of early afternoon seven terminals were in full operation.  "There is no shutdown at the port" echoes International Longshoreman and Warehouse Union spokesperson Craig Merrilees.  "We are absolutely not calling for a strike."

    The Occupy Oakland movement has said it will march on the port at 5 p.m.

    The link between the Occupy movement and the port is tenuous at best.  The average longshoreman is actually fairly well off, with salaries in the six figures.   A man who identified himself as a longshoreman spoke out at a Thursday morning Occupy press conference in San Francisco and ILWU union president Bob McEllrath has declared "solidarity" with the movement, but it is unclear what that means for the day to day business of loading and unloading boats.

    "We've always supported the goals of the 99-percent" says ILWU's Merrilees, referring to the Occupy movement's slogan.    

    "About 40" workers did not show up for assignment at the union hall this morning, says Merrilees.  Unlike traditional jobs, port workers are free to decline work at any time.  Each day the port fills roughly 325 jobs with whichever qualified union workers wish to work.  

    There have been full work stoppages at the port for various causes, including concern Tuesday that some refrigerated containers may not be safe to open and in May of 2008 when workers participated in a one day strike to protest the Iraq war. The Los Angeles Times explains the Occupy protestors may have chosen the port to take advantage of a twist in the longshoremen's contract:   they can refuse to cross any picket line.  Most unions refuse to cross other union's picket lines; the dock workers have the contractual right not to cross any protest of any sort.

    Oakland is the third largest port on the West Coast, behind Los Angeles and Long Beach.  2,000 vessels load and unload $39 billion dollars worth of goods each year, says port spokesman Robert Bernardo.

        Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan said it has been estimated that some 5,000 people will  march on the port, adding that his officers will help the group get to their destination safely.   

    Some "Occupy Oakland" protesters have vowed to shut down the port  tonight, but Kos-Read declined to say what action would be taken to prevent  that.

    "We'll deal with that situation if it comes up," he said.   

    In an open letter to the community of Oakland issued on Tuesday,  port officials stressed that workers at the port are also part of the 99  percent, and that the port is interested in contributing to the civic  dialogue initiated by the Occupy Oakland movement.

    Bay City News contributed to this report.