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Dear Officers and the Rank and File of ILWU Canada,


In recent weeks, we have seen worldwide protests against racism and hatred. The ILWU has a proud history of defending the rights and dignity of people and lifting those up that need to be lifted in their time of need. The ILWU International has issued a statement that Longshore workers will be taking the day shift off on June 19th to bring awareness to the day called Juneteenth.


‘Juneteenth’ refers to June 19, 1865, when federal orders freed all enslaved people in Texas, one of the most remote and resistant of the Confederate states. Though the Emancipation Proclamation formally ended slavery more than two-and-a-half years prior, the freedom it declared was far from immediate. In fact, we still see in the United States systemic racism built into all levels of life to this day, and this must end!


Racism and division are weapons used by those in power to keep the working class down. A divided class is a class that can never rise and bring true prosperity to us all. That is why ILWU Canada Longshore division will be taking part in this coast-wide shut down on Juneteenth. Canada’s hands are not clean either, in the past or the present. We also had slavery, there was the internment of Japanese Canadians, the incident of the Komagata Maru and the residential schools. In present day we have the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls (MMIWG) and we see systemic racism in Canadian society. This Union, OUR Union, has been a part of many movements throughout its lifetime to help end hatred and racism. Whether it was ending apartheid in South Africa or working with Martin Luther King Jr. in the 60s the ILWU stood in solidarity.


Our history against racism goes back to the creation of our Union, when Harry Bridges went to black churches and promised black workers a place in our Union if they do not scab on us during work stoppages. This was an incredible act of solidarity by black workers, who were discriminated against in every walk of life, and who still chose to stand beside Longshore workers rather than take jobs they would otherwise be excluded from based on their race.


On June 19, 2020, ILWU Canada Longshore in solidarity with the anti-racism movement and Guiding Principle #3, will be shutting down for the 0800 shift.


“Workers are indivisible. There can be no discrimination because of race, color, creed, national origin, religious or political belief, sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation. Any division among the workers can help no one but the employers. Worker-against-worker discrimination is suicide. Discrimination is a weapon of the boss. Its entire history is proof that it has served no other purpose than to pit workers against one another, to their own destruction.”


On behalf of Officers

In Strength and Solidarity

Rob Ashton


On June 19th, members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) will shut down all ports along the West coast from Alaska to San Diego in solidarity with ongoing protests over the murder of George Floyd. The day of action is slated for Juneteenth, the day celebrating the heralding of the emancipation proclamation to Texan slaves more than two years after the proclamation took effect in 1863.

Since its founding, the ILWU has endured as one of the most radical antiracist unions. It was one of the first unions to desegregate work gangs in the 1930s and during the 1940s it publicly agitated against the internment of Japanese Americans. During the civil rights movement of the 1960s the ILWU led organizing drives and even inducted Martin Luther King as an honorary union member after he spoke to members of San Francisco’s Local 10 in 1967.

In recent years the union has protested the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with similar work stoppages and refused to unload containers from an Israeli-owned ship in protest of the killing of Palestinians at the hands of the IDF. In maintaining its commitment to racial justice, the ILWU also shut down US ports in 2010 over the police killing of Oscar Grant.

For now, the shutdown is scheduled to overlap with a coastwide ILWU stop-work meeting, a tactic that falls within protections afforded by the union contracts. The longshore workers intend to use their day of action to call on other unions to stand in solidarity with all those threatened by police violence and exploitation.

Black, Indigenous and people of colour lives have always been targeted by the police. Since George Floyd’s murder, the planned ILWU shutdown is one of the highest profile labour actions to take shape. It follows on the heels of unionized bus drivers in Minneapolis and New York City refusing to transport arrested protesters, and also serves as a significant escalation at a time when some of the largest and most powerful unions are facing progressive challenges to long-entrenched moderate leadership.

Longshore workers standing together to make it clear that racial injustice is directly tied to the injustices of all workers in this country. There is no more critical time than right now for labour to stand together and force change. Right now, workers have more power than a lot of people in this country understand and that’s why we are going to put that power on display: to raise the voices of labour, and to raise the voices of black and indigenous people in this country and to demand justice.

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