Thursday, December 1, 2011

West Coast Ports Bracing for Possible Occupy Shutdown

Ports up and down the West Coast say they are preparing for the possibility of a mass demonstration later this month, even as the union representing longshore workers says it won’t support the protest.

Officials with the ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland and elsewhere all say they are mapping out strategies to deal with the expected demonstration, which is planned for Dec. 12 by the Occupy movement.

The movement, which protests wealth inequality, already succeeded in a port protest on Nov. 2, when thousands of demonstrators managed to shut down the Port of Oakland for about four hours.

Now the movement says it will expand its actions to include ports from Vancouver, Canada down to San Diego during a one-day action, starting at 5 am on a Monday. If it transpires, the effect could be temporarily devastating, particularly at LA/Long Beach: the port complex handles an estimated $1 billion in imports and exports daily.

Occupy has specifically said it is targeting terminal operators EGT and SSA, because of perceived mistreatment of workers in South America and of ‘gross exploitation’ of port truckers.

“EGT … is Wall Street on the waterfront,” Barucha Peller of the West Coast Port Blockade Assembly of Occupy Oakland said. “This is our coordinated response against the (top) one percent (of the wealthy). On Dec. 12, we will show our collective power through pinpointed economic blockade.”

But despite previously expressing written and verbal support for the movement, ILWU leadership says it does not authorize dockworkers’ participation in the planned shutdown because it is by a third-party group and has not been vetted by the union.