By Ronald W. Powell / UNION-TRIBUNE / May 1, 2008
Port workers at cargo terminals in San Diego and National City joined their counterparts at other West Coast port facilities in a May Day work stoppage to protest the Iraq War. The 40 scheduled for the 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. shift today did not show up, said Ron Popham, the maritime director at the San Diego Unified Port District, which operates the two cargo facilities.
National City’s 24th Street Marine Terminal was quiet Thursday as longshore workers that handle cargo stayed away from work in a one-day protest against the war in Iraq.
But William Silva, president of Local 29 of the International Longshore & Warehouse Union, said the number was 500, counting casual, part-time, fill-in and other union laborers. Silva said 25,000 dock workers from San Diego to Alaska were participating in the work action.
“Today we are standing for the majority of Americans who are against the Iraq War,” Silva said in an interview. “We’re Democrats, Republicans and independents, and we’re sending a signal to our politicians that it’s time to get out of Iraq now.”
Silva said the union supports the troops and wants to bring them home safely.
The work stoppage was called by the heads of the International Longshore & Warehouse Union, and it was not the first such protest. Last year, the union called for workers to take off to protest U.S. immigration policy.
In local cargo ports, the impact was not severe.
Popham said lumber was not unloaded from a barge and new cars were not being trucked off from National City’s 24th Street terminal.
At the 10th Avenue Marine Terminal in downtown San Diego, about 80 to 100 trucks that would normally transport fruit from the facility to stores around the region were idled, said port spokesman John Gilmore.
There were no disruptions at the port’s cruise ship facility on San Diego’s North Embarcadero because no cruise ships were docked there, Popham said.
The work stoppage had a larger impact on ports in Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland and Seattle, which are the primary gateways for container shipments from the Far East and other foreign ports. San Diego is a niche port that handles few goods shipped by container.
Workers from Local 29 did not picket or hold protests this morning, but were gathered in a meeting of union members.
Popham said he expected workers to return to their jobs for Thursday’s second shift, which stretches from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Silva said workers would resume their duties at 6 p.m.
A spokesman for the National Retail Federation said shippers and exporters anticipated the work stoppage and did not expect a major longterm disruption in cargo traffic.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.