by Clarence Thomas, past secretary-treasurer for Local 10
For the second consecutive year, the ILWU Local 10 will be withholding its labor for eight hours to commemorate May Day. This May Day, Local 10 is calling for a “National Day of Mourning” for Black and Brown unarmed victims of police killings across the country. In 2015, the May Day theme was to “Stop Police Terror.”
Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders has been invited to speak May Day. While there is no confirmation as yet, the invitation is being strongly considered by his campaign organizers. Local 10 and the ILWU’s International Executive Board have endorsed his candidacy.
Danny Glover has been campaigning with Bernie Sanders in various states throughout the country and most recently in New York. Glover, actor and activist, raised in San Francisco, will appear at one of the rallies. As a student leader at San Francisco State University, he led the longest student strike in America history, which established the School of Ethnic Studies, and he was a prominent figure in the anti-apartheid struggle.
Also invited to speak is Mike Farrell, cast member of popular TV series M*A*S*H*, a life-long opponent of the death penalty. Farrell has debated and spoken about this issue on many occasions across the country. Additional speakers will include family members of victims of police violence and community, social justice and labor activists.
This year’s May Day festivities include a pre-rally at the Local 10 union hall located at 400 North Point St. in San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf to be followed by a march and rally at Harry Bridges Plaza near the Ferry Building. The ILWU was born out of the struggle against protesting police violence against maritime workers in all major West Coast ports in the Big Strike of 1934. The San Francisco Labor Council is supporting ILWU Local 10’s march along the Embarcadero, site of the longshoremen’s battle with police in the Big Strike of 1934.
May Day, International Workers Day, is a holiday “born in the USA” to celebrate labor’s struggle to gain the eight-hour work day. In 1884, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions passed a resolution in Chicago declaring that eight hours would constitute a legal day’s work on May 1, 1886.
Labor’s struggle to achieve the eight-hour work day faced bloody repression as business-controlled government tried to crush the workers’ movement. The workers were determined to end long hours of brutal exploitation and were victorious.
Local 10 has been in the vanguard of labor in its acts of resistance protesting racial policing. This year’s May Day mobilization is advancing five demands supported by Rev. Clementa Pinkney, South Carolina state senator, church pastor and one of the slain Emanuel 9 of Charleston. Demands include: 1. End to racist policing; 2. Economic justice, a $15 living wage now; 3. Health care for all, Medicaid expansion; 4. Quality education as a basic human right; and 5. Voting rights expansion.
Longshore unions can take the lead in building workers’ solidarity to end racist policing and also achieve economic and social justice for the working class as it did in 1886 to achieve the eight-hour work day. If the working class is to be heard, then labor must shut it down. All out for May Day 2016.
Clarence Thomas, past secretary-treasurer for Local 10, organizer for previous May Day actions, third generation longshoreman and member of Local 10 for 30 years, can be reached at email@example.com.