In its continued quest for media attention, the fading Occupy Wall Street movement has moved on to shutting down ports along the West Coast. The movement claims it’s doing this in solidarity with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which is currently feuding with a major grain exporter. But the union president isn’t exactly grateful for the “help” – in fact, he released a statement criticizing the OWS movement for “co-opting” the union’s fight:
As the Occupy movement, which began in September 2011, sweeps this country, there is a real danger that forces outside of the ILWU will attempt to adopt our struggle as their own. Support is one thing, organization from outside groups attempting to co-opt our struggle in order to advance a broader agenda is quite another and one that is destructive to our democratic process and jeopardizes our over two-year struggle in Longview. …
Most recently, groups directly connected to the Occupy movement and other loosely affiliated social media groups have called for the shutdown of certain terminals and the West Coast ports. At the same time, these groups seek to link these shutdowns to the ILWU’s labor dispute with employer [grain exporter] EGT. None of this is sanctioned by the membership of the ILWU or informed by the local and International leadership. Simply put, there has been no communication with the leadership and no vote within the ILWU ranks on EGT associated Occupy actions.
It sounds like the union is worried the shutdown could undermine the negotiating process. The port itself is also unhappy about the OWS demonstration, and has warned city residents that the protest will only end up hurting local workers:
The Port of Oakland has appealed to city residents not to join the blockade, which they said could hurt the port’s standing among customers and cost local jobs.
“The port is going to do all that it can to keep operations going. Our businesses need to hear that. Our workers need to know that,” said Port of Oakland spokesman Isaac Kos-Read.
In its effort to attack “big corporations,” Occupy Wall Street may end up hurting the average employees. They can’t grasp that the port workers’ fates are tied up with the fate of the company. Less business means fewer jobs.
It’s one thing when an organized union with clear goals takes action against its employer. There’s plenty to criticize about labor unions, but you can’t deny that workers risk their jobs and livelihoods when they strike. The Occupiers, on the other hand, risk nothing. They’re not putting their jobs on the line, and they have no stated end goals that can be negotiated. This is disruption for disruption’s sake, and it benefits nobody.