ILWU Plans West Coast Work Stoppage on Juneteenth

ILWU dockers hold a nine-minute memorial for George Floyd at Port of Los Angeles, June 9 (ILWU / Robyn Doyno, Local 13)

Published Jun 18, 2020 5:27 PM by The Maritime Executive

PMSA and ILWU agreed to move a regular stop-work meeting to the day of June 19 so that union members could participate in commemoration events and protests marking Juneteenth.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) will be ceasing operations for the day shift Friday at 29 ports from Bellingham to San Diego, giving longshore workers time to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States. This year's event has elevated significance due to nationwide protests over alleged police bias.

“With the ILWU’s history of advocating for the end of police terror and violence we decided to put a call out,” said Trent Willis, the head of San Francisco's ILWU Local 10, speaking to KQED. 

At Terminal 46 in downtown Seattle, ILWU's workers will be holding a rally and march to "stop police brutality and end systematic racism," beginning at the union hall at 0900 hours. MLK Labor, the umbrella group for labor organizations in King County, will be coordinating with the event. 

The shutdown is not the first connected to the police reform movement. On June 9, ILWU dockworkers stopped work for a nine-minute memorial honoring George Floyd, the 46-year-old African-American man whose death in police custody sparked continuing nationwide protests. 

“Our union has a long history of confronting racism on the job, in our communities and around the world,” said ILWU International President Willie Adams in a statement. “Today we’re joining millions of people who are demanding justice and fundamental change. The union calls on all elected officials in local, state, and the federal government to open their eyes and hearts, to initiate real change in our current system, and root out institutionalized racism and police brutality that have plagued our country and our citizens for far too long."

The Juneteenth celebration has a long history. On June 19, 1865, Gen. Gordon Granger (Union Army) issued a proclamation declaring that all slaves in the state of Texas were free. (Though President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation had technically freed them in 1863, full implementation took an additional two years to achieve.) Gen. Granger's announcement spread the news to an estimated 200,000 enslaved persons in Texas, marking the end of legalized slavery in the United States.