Today in labor history: 10,000-plus dockers locked out

Pacific Maritime Association, a coalition of corporate shipping giants, locked out 10,500 longshore workers today in 2002. The action unleashed an unprecedented union-busting campaign, which included retailers like Walmart and the active participation of the President of the United States George W. Bush, against the International Longshore and Warehouse Workers Union.

All of labor rallied in solidarity with the ILWU against the corporate-White House attacks. The 29 ports involved, closed for almost two weeks, were re-opened after Bush invoked the anti-labor Taft-Hartley Act . It was the first time since 1978 that the act had been used.

Before the lockout, shipping companies and the ILWU had been in contract negotiations where health care, pensions and job loss due to “labor-saving” technology were the main points of contention. Unable to provoke the ILWU into a strike, the PMA locked out the workers claiming it was in response to a “slow-down.”

The PMA, along with the White House, blatantly used the horrific Sept. 11, 2001, attacks as rationale for federal intervention by using national security as a pretext. At the time Scott Marshall wrote, “In the tragic aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, the ultra-right in Congress, with the urging of the shipping companies, introduced some 43 pieces of port security legislation. Cynically exploiting popular fears, the legislation claims to protect ports and harbors from terrorist attacks. Sensational speculation was the game of the day. Terrorists were planning to smuggle in nuclear devices in cargo containers, through our wide-open, unprotected ports, they said. “

The role of Walmart as a leading anti-union, profiteering force became more widely known during this port battle. Juan Lopez wrote, “Walmart has become one of the key players in the West Coast longshore negotiations. They have helped to form an association of retailers to help bring corporate pressure to bear on the negotiations. The famous close ties between Wal-Mart and the Bush administration tend to expose the real concerns on port security – not nuclear bombs but the unfettered flow of goods, free from union working conditions.”

People’s World gave extensive coverage to the 2002 struggle, helping to amplify labor’s working-class voice in this epic battle against corporate exploitation and ultra-right political power. The list of stories include:

ILWU longshore contract by the numbers

Bush rewards bosses invokes Taft-Hartley

Longshore potential intervention threat to negotiations

Bush threatens troop in longshore dispute

National security or war on workers?The Bush outrages of the month list

Labor law 101

Labor solidarity backs West Coast dockers

Harry Bridges and ILWU from “wharf rats” to “lords of the docks”

ILWU ties pension demands to technology

ILWU to vote on landmark pact

Photo: International Longshore and Warehouse Union workers block attempt to  move a banana ship in Port Hueneme, southern California, October 2, 2002.  After tense stand-off with riot cops, the shipping company backed down. ( Jean-Marc Bouju/AP)



Teresa Albano
Teresa Albano

Teresa Albano was the first woman editor-in-chief of People’s World, 2003-2010, leading the transition from weekly print to daily online publishing and establishing PW’s social media presence. Albano has been a staff writer for People’s World covering political, labor and social justice issues for more than 25 years. She traveled throughout the U.S. and abroad, including India, Cuba, Angola, Italy, and to Paris to cover the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference. An award-winning journalist, Albano has been honored for her writing by International Labor Communications Association, National Federation of Press Women and Illinois Woman Press Association.