On Thursday Occupy Oakland announced a general strike that would "shut the city down," but while the unions have expressed support for the political movement, labor representatives said on Friday they wouldn't be striking. Protest organizers met with labor unions to get the support of labor, which they have, but only to a point. Occupy Oakland organizer Cat Brooks told Reuters on Friday the goal of the Nov. 2 action was a total general strike. "We mean nobody goes to work, nobody goes to school, we shut the city down," she said. But representatives from the Peralta Federation of Teachers and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union both said their organizations wouldn't call a strike for their members.
"It’s virtually impossible for any union to endorse a work-stoppage because all contracts have no-strike clauses, which unions are bound to honor. However most of the unions on the west coast, including ILWU, have been involved in supporting the Occupy Wall Street movement in their local communities," ILWU communications director Craig Merrilees said.
Separately, Peralta Fedration of Teachers labor representative Sara Connors said that while that union did have a process by which to call for a strike, it involved a union-wide vote that the organization's leadership had not as yet scheduled. "We’re going to do what we can to have members there participating. We didn’t call a strike vote, but we’re participating in the day of action," she said. The plan for Thursday's action includes three separate assemblies -- at 9 a.m., noon, and 6 p.m. -- to be held in downtown Oakland. Unions have encouraged their members to attend when they can, but not to skip work.
ILWU members have a recent history of taking the day off on their own volition when there's a cause they support. In 2008 about 25,000 members walked off the job at ports along the West Coast to protest the war in Iraq. In 2003, workers joined protesters at the Port of Oakland to protest the U.S. invasion. Merrilees refused to speculate on whether port workers would join the general strike next Thursday, but he said: "The ILWU members have a long and well-deserved reputation for exercising their fisrst-amendment rights on a wide variety of issues, all based on bedrock principles of social justice. That goes back to the times shortly after the union was founded, when workers refused to load ships bound for fascist Germany or Hirohito’s Japan, and includes actions that members took to oppose the apartheid regime in south Africa, and the war in Iraq during our time."
After Oakland police cleared the Occupy Oakland encampment on Tuesday morning, protesters clashed with law enforcement on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning and one protester, Iraq-war veteran Scott Olsen, got hit in the head with what protesters say was a police projectile. Olsen is scheduled to have brain surgery on Friday, and his name has become a rallying cry for protesters who have planned demonstrations through the weekend to decry police violence. On Friday, campers had set up about 25 tents in Frank Ogawa Plaza after it was cleared earlier in the week.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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