Unions: We dont support Occupy port shutdown

Longshoremen say they will not participate in planned Dec. 12 West Coast protest

A rift is growing among the Occupy movement and at least some of the labor unions supporting it.

The largest union representing workers at the Port of Portland is not backing a plan announced by Occupy protesters to shut down all West Coast ports on Monday, Dec. 12.

'We support the goals of the Occupy protesters but we are not supportive or participating in the shutdown of the West Coast ports,' says Jeff Smith, president of the International Longshoreman and Warehouse Union Local 8. The union represents workers who load and unload ships at the port, and also move freight in and out of it.

A group called West Coast Port Shutdown claims to be associated with the Occupy movement and plans to close ports in Anchorage, Los Angeles, Oakland, Portland, San Diego, Tacoma, Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia.

The group claims to have support from Occupy protesters in all those cities. The group also says it expects to have the support of the ILWU.

'The ILWU has a long history of standing up to the employing class and organizing solidarity actions, often despite the International officers' positions. This is a source of pride for our membership and the ILWU is admired by other unions for its courageous stands. Longshoremen, as always, need to link up now with other port workers, truckers, machinists, warehousemen and the Occupy movement in a fight against the port bosses for our jobs and our unions, regardless of what the union tops put out,' according to the group's website.

Smith says the Portland union will not honor picket lines at the port, however.

'This is a third-party strike. We have to go to work,' says Smith.

On Nov. 22, ILWU President Robert McEllarth issued a statement saying none of the locals had agreed to the shutdown.

'The ILWU shares the Occupy Wall Street movement's concerns about - corporate abuses and the future of the middle class, but we must be clear that - any actions organized by outside groups, including the proposed Dec. 12 shutdown of various terminals on the West Coast, have not been vetted by our union's democratically led process,' according to the union's statement. 'Only ILWU members or their elected representatives can authorize job actions on behalf of the union, and any decisions made by groups outside of the union's democratic process do not hold water, regardless of the intent.'