* Blocking ports simultaneously could be difficult
* Oakland has mounted a public relations campaign
* Union workers largely expected to stay on the job
By Laird Harrison
OAKLAND, Calif., Dec 11 Anti-Wall Street
protesters, hoping to briefly cripple a key supply chain of
American commerce and re-energize their movement, plan to
attempt to block major West Coast ports on Monday.
By marching on U.S. ports from California to Alaska,
organizers look to call attention to economic inequalities in
the country and a financial system they complain is unfairly
tilted toward the wealthy.
The planned action comes after the Occupy Wall Street
movement that began in New York in September has seen its tent
camps in most big West Coast cities dismantled in police raids,
leaving the movement looking for new avenues to voice its
But a plan to shutter multiple ports simultaneously could
prove difficult because some of the facilities are in massive
complexes with multiple entrances that would be tough to fully
block, even if large numbers of demonstrators turn out.
Activists aligned with the Occupy Wall Street movement did
briefly succeed in shuttering Oakland's port, the fifth busiest
in the country, for hours on Nov. 2 after police kept their
Oakland, long an Occupy hot spot, may again be center stage
on Monday in a day of protest seen as a test of the movement's
momentum, along with the combined ports of Los Angeles and Long
Beach. Organizers are also targeting Portland, Anchorage,
Seattle, Tacoma and Houston.
"The objective of the day is to shut down the port through
mass action," said Mike King, a graduate student who acts as a
media liaison for Occupy Oakland. "The Occupy movement is
attacking the 1 percent at their point of profit."
Police in several cities were so far not disclosing their
plans for handling the protesters or whether they aimed to
confront them, risking clashes, or stand back.
FOCUS ON TRUCK DRIVERS
The Port of Oakland has mounted a public relations campaign
to dissuade protesters from joining the effort, while two of
the largest labor unions involved have split -- with the
International Longshore and Warehouse Union opposed to the
blockade and Teamsters in favor.
But union workers were largely expected to stay on the job,
and were contractually barred from joining such a strike. The
protest will focus in part on truck drivers who earn low wages
and cannot join unions because they are classified as
independent truck drivers, and must provide their own trucks.
"It's a group that encapsulates basically everything that
is wrong with society," King said.
Among the companies at which protesters directed their ire
was SSA Marine, which loads and unloads cargo ships. Organizers
said they planned to target its terminal at the combined ports
of Los Angeles-Long Beach, which together handle 40 percent of
the nation's waterborne imports.
"They are independent contractors," SSA Marine spokesman
Bob Watters said of the nonunion drivers. Truckers provide
their own vehicles and the lease agreements are day by day, he
said, allowing them to work for many companies.
Oakland port spokesman Isaac Kos-Read said the issue of
independent truckers was being adjudicated in court, and that
the port was working with unions and its tenants to improve the
environmental impact of trucking.
"The port empathizes with the issues brought up by the
Occupy movement," he said. "But we have a strategy for
inclusive development. Shutting down the port is only going to
hurt the people they are trying to help."