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DOCKERS walked out on strike across the US west coast today in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement on the anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the state of Texas.
The date is known as “Juneteenth” and saw 29 ports shut down for eight hours as the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) pledged support for all those fighting structural racism and inequality.
It followed a previous stoppage on June 9 when union members downed tools for eight minutes and 46 seconds in silent tribute to George Floyd during his funeral.
This was the amount of time that former US police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck, suffocating him to death.
The dock workers were also striking against the privatisation of port services allowing bosses to circumvent the US’s strict anti-union legislation.
“Juneteenth has long been recognised by the African-American community, but for many others it was unknown until now — as our nation, in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, refocuses on ways to address ongoing, systemic racial injustice,” ILWU international president Willie Adams said.
“Thousands of dockworkers will stop work for the first shift on June 19, 2020, to show their commitment to the cause of racial equality and social justice.”
ILWU International spokesman Melvin Mackay, who attended Mr Floyd’s memorial said: “It’s been 157 years since the Emancipation Proclamation, but our nation remains plagued by systemic racism, as the murder of Mr Floyd so tragically demonstrated. We can and must do better.”
Thousands attended a march and rally including prominent activist Angela Davis and sacked Amazon worker Chris Smalls who led a walkout at the online retail giant’s warehouse over unsafe conditions during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mr Smalls called on people to boycott Amazon for the day in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and in protest at the alleged racism of the company towards its workforce. He encouraged pickets at associated company Whole Foods and for people to shop at small, black-owned businesses instead.
ILWU international vice-president Bobby Olvera Junior said the union felt compelled to act on June 19 against racism, hate and intolerance, while our nation endures a devastating pandemic and painful new wounds from a President who prefers division over unity.”
Mr Adams said the ILWU was striking in the spirit of our union’s founders, “including some who gave their lives in 1934. We still live by their creed: ‘an injury to one is an injury to all’.”
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