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UPDATED: West Coast Protests Disrupt Ports

Monday, December 12, 2011 - 10:13 PM

Port of Oakland (photo (cc) by Flickr user ingridtaylar)

UPDATED 7 PM PST: Occupy protesters marched on ports up and down the West Coast Monday in a coordinated action designed to shut down operations.

As a result of protests in Oakland, CA, 100-150 longshoremen were sent home in the morning, according to ILWU spokesman Craig Merrilees. The ILWU, the union representing longshoremen, publicly stated that it did not support the port blockades.  According to Merrilees and a statement from the Port of Oakland, dock workers were sent home because of a decision by their employers that conditions as the port were unsafe--not as the result of arbitration, as was earlier reported.

Protesters marching to the Port of Oakland (photo by Julie Caine/KALW)

Mike King, a spokesman for the Occupy blockade, said that Oakland protesters had met their goal for the morning, which was to stop ships from being loaded and unloaded at the port. Two additional marches convened on the port in the late afternoon with the same goal of blocking work on the evening shift.

Richard Mead, the president of the ILWU Local 10 in San Francisco, said that employers at the port informed the ILWU that they would not be calling for any labor for the evening shift, which started at 6pm. If there’s no call for labor, Mead said, the longshoremen don’t go to work.

It wasn’t only the longshoremen who didn’t work Monday. Bill Aboudi, the president of AB Trucking, a small trucking company that does local runs in and out of the Port of Oakland, said that his six employee truck drivers couldn’t get into the terminals today to pick up or drop off containers. “The shutdown is burning cash,” he said. “It’s costing everybody and it’s a big headache for the 99% who work for a living.” He said that the backup caused by today’s protests would take at least a week to resolve.

Ruben Rodriguez, an Oakland-based truck driver who owns his own truck, said that he supported the movement, even though it meant he couldn’t work today. “I’m losing money today, but it’s worth it,” he said. “Poor people are earning less and rich people are earning more. People have to know about this.” Rodriguez said that in the past five years, the money he earns as a trucker has gone down while fuel prices have dramatically increased. He said that his average take-home earnings for a 2-3 day trip from Oakland to Los Angeles are only about $80 total.

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan issued an open letter to protesters on Sunday night asking them not to shut down the port saying it is not the “home of the 1 percent…It is one of the best sources of good paying blue-collar jobs left in our city.”

Protesters remained at the Port of Oakland Monday night, and are discussing whether to continue the blockade for a second day after reports of police violence in other cities.

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