Occupy Shuts Down West Coast Ports

Protesters at the November 2 Oakland port shutdown.<a href="http://motherjones.com/photoessays/2011/11/occupy-oakland-shuts-down-port/trucks">Mark Murrmann</a>

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


The first phase of Monday’s Occupy Oakland-led West Coast port shutdown was, by protesters’ accounts, a success: Port terminals were shut down in Oakland and in Longview, Washington—the site of an ongoing contract fight with a subsidiary of agribusiness giant Bunge. In Long Beach, San Diego, and Vancouver, attempts to shut down the respective ports were less successful, with protesters blocking access to the three ports for about an hour before police forced them to disperse. Police arrested five demonstrators in San Diego and at least two in Long Beach.

In Oakland, protesters exchanged heated words with angry port workers who were anxious to be paid. Among these workers were members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), whose leadership had spoken out in opposition to the shutdown.

At one blockade, a trucker sparred verbally with a protester as the two recorded video of each other. The trucker called the protesters “hooligans” who were hurting the working class. Nearby, a union electrical worker laughed and called protesters “morons.”

Mark Hebert, a Utah trucker working as an independent contractor, was heckled by protesters as he complained to the media about the shutdown. Hebert said he typically dropped cargo off at the port once a week and risked losing $200 to $400 in pay.

But several truckers honked in support of Occupy Oakland, and some ILWU workers strongly supported the port’s second shutdown. (Oakland’s general strike on November 2 resulted in a port shutdown, costing the city a reported $4 million and putting more than 10,000 port workers temporarily out of work.) One, a business agent watching the blockade from a company van who said his name was L.T., told me that protesters “need to stay your ground. I’m not crossing the picket line.” Responding to ILWU president Robert McEllrath’s letter criticizing the shutdown, he said, “We don’t give a damn.”

Oakland protesters will reconvene later for an evening march to set up a blockade ahead of a 7 p.m. port shift change, and occupiers in other cities plan evening actions to keep their terminals out of service as well.

That didn’t sit well with Hebert, who cut our conversation short to return to his truck for a breather. On his way, he kicked over a sign reading “truckers have rights to union wages”—a good reminder that Occupy’s success today may depend upon winning the public-relations battle for working-class sympathy.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest