Longshoremen protest apartheid.
Local 10 of the International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union in San Francisco, whose membership is 60 percent black, has long been involved in the U.S. antiapartheid movement. The local's South Africa Liberation Support Committee gathers clothing and other aid for refugees from Zimbabwe and South Africa and arranges speaking engagements for representatives of the African National Congress and the South African Congress of Trade Unions. Last October, the local decided to take bolder action. At the monthly general meeting, members pledged to refuse to handle the next South African cargo that reached port.
When the Kimberly, one of four Dutch-owned Nedlloyd Line ships that regularly carry South African cargo to West Coast ports, docked in San Francisco on November 24, the local stevedoring company placed a routine order for about twenty men to unload the ship. Although it was an opportunity to earn more than $200 a shift, none of the local's 1,500 members would take the jobs.
That night two work crews, led by Leo Robinson, head of the support committee, quickly unloaded a small quantity of Australian goods from the Kimberly but refused to touch the South African products aboard--steel, wine, apple products and automobile parts. They were fired on the spot. For the next nine days, several hundred longshoremen accepted assignments to the Kimberly but refused to unload the cargo. They were not paid and their names were placed at the bottom of the hiring list.
Despite scanty coverage in the press, Local 10's boycott drew considerable support. Some 200 local residents braved a rainstorm to protest the Kimberly's arrival. More than 700 people, including local clergymen and leaders of the black community, attended a rally at the pier on December 2, where Representative Ron Dellums and Berkeley Mayor Gus Newport spoke.
After arbitrators called in by the Pacific Maritime Association, an organization representing about 130 West Coast shipowners, ruled the action an illegal breach of contract, the local's leaders, who had played no overt role in the protest, urged the men to unload the ship. The boycott was ended on December 3, but hundreds of demonstrators continued to picket and sit in at the association's headquarters, demanding that it sever relations with shipping lines that move South African cargo.
Every few weeks, Nedlloyd vessels arrive in the Bay Area and other West Coast ports, laden with South African goods. If the longshoremen and their community supporters can tie up these ships--and if transport workers at East Coast and gulf ports follow suit--the American antiapartheid movement will have gained a powerful weapon.
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|Title Annotation:||Local 10 of the International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union in San Francisco|
|Author:||Blum, Joseph A.|
|Date:||Mar 23, 1985|
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