The following was written by Michael Siegel aka @OakTownMike.
On the fence about this coming Monday’s West Coast Port Shutdown? Looking for ways to convince your neighbor to march with you at 5:30 in the morning to form a community picket line? There are many reasons to join the action. See below, and see you in the streets!
12. The Port Has Been Scandalous Since 1852. Oakland’s first mayor, Horace Carpentier, was the first cynical politician to manipulate the power and wealth of our tidelands for his personal benefit. In 1852, at the first government meeting of newly-formed Oakland, Mayor Carpentier was granted the entire Oakland waterfront in exchange for $5.00 and a promise to build a new schoolhouse and three wharfs. Carpentier would spend the next several decades reaping enormous profit from this public gift. Oaklanders protested: as early as November 1853, enraged residents rioted on the Oakland waterfront, demanding that City politicians recover the Port for the benefit of the People. Nearly 160 years later, the struggle continues.
11. Foreclosure Profiteers Make Their Money Here. Goldman Sachs is one of the wealthiest and most powerful organizations in the world. This banking and financial services empire maintains assets greater than $900 billion. Goldman executives can take credit for many of the financial crises of the last decade, including insider trading, fraud, credit default swaps, and subprime mortgages. Despite reaping mass destruction on the People, the U.S. government (staffed by former Goldman execs) continues to give public funds to this private firm – in one recent example, Goldman received $10 billion from the U.S. Treasury, as part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program. As we say, this bank got bailed out, and we got sold out. Meanwhile, Goldman is a primary investor in the SSA Marine shipping magnate, which operates a terminal at the Port of Oakland.
10. 25 Truckers. On October 26, 2011, 25 truck drivers at the Port of Los Angeles came to their workplace wearing union t-shirts. Their employer, Toll Global, an Australian transportation conglomerate, had refused to provide clean bathrooms or drinking water, much less improve the workers’ paltry wages and benefits. Every day, the workers had performed their role of carrying cargo to LA’s high-end fashion stores. But when the workers petitioned for better conditions and dared to show union solidarity, Toll Global fired them all. The West Coast Port Shutdown is in solidarity with these workers, and with all of the 99% who continue to suffer under wage slavery.
9. The Port Commission’s Dereliction of Duty to the People of Oakland. Many of us are unaware that the “Port of Oakland” is simply a department of the City of Oakland. The Port leaders are nominated by the Mayor and confirmed by the City Council. Their duty, under the Charter, is to act “on behalf of the City.” More specifically, the Port Commission is required to turn over all surplus funds to the City of Oakland at the end of each fiscal year.
Rather than return money for use in supporting libraries, parks, small business loans and the like, however, the Port Commission always finds a way to spend the money – to ensure no “surplus” gets back to the People.
8. Bloated Contracts and Assorted Self-Dealing. In the absence of political oversight or community pressure, the Port of Oakland has treated itself to a huge party at public expense. Port executives make far more than their counterparts at other public agencies. Their executive director, Omar Benjamin, makes $257,508 per year – over $120,000 more than Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, who earns $137,000 annually. The Port’s Chief Financial Officer makes $192,624 per year, 366% more than Oakland’s top financial officer. In general, Port executives earn 30% or 40% more than their City of Oakland counterparts.
7. While Schools Close, the Port Invests in Unnecessary Infrastructure. Earlier this year, the Oakland Unified School District announced that it would close five historic schools—Lakeview, Santa Fe, Lazear, Marshall, and Maxwell Park—to save approximately $2 million. Meanwhile, the Port of Oakland has squandered $85.6 million on speculative and unneeded projects, including improvements to the Oakland airport (now vastly underutilized) as well as a BART light rail airport connector designed to serve well-off travelers who won’t deign to catch the AirBart bus connection.
6. Billionaire Burkle and Yucaipa. 1%er Ron Burkle is perhaps best known for partying with Bill Clinton and various women decades his younger. He is also the founder of Yucaipa Companies, a private equity firm that owns numerous “cold storage” facilities, including one at the Port of Oakland. Burkle has used his wealth to curry favor among the political elite, bankrolling numerous political campaigns including those of Bill and Hillary Clinton, Willie Brown, Al Gore, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
5. The City Council Could Change All of This. If the Oakland City Council had any nerve, they could demand that the Port Commissioners actually create a budget that ensures that the People of Oakland would benefit from Port profits. The Oakland Charter itself creates this power: under Section 703, at any time, a vote of six City Council members could recall one or all of the Port Commissioners.
4. Meanwhile, the Port Invests in Land with the People’s Money. Beyond infrastructure boondoggles and excessive salaries, the Port has a third way of avoiding payments to the City of Oakland: namely, real estate investments. Currently, the People’s money is caught up in huge development projects in Jack London Square, the Oak to Ninth estuary development project, and the Fruitvale and San Antonio districts. Instead of investing hundreds of millions of dollars to pay development companies and other private contractors (many of whom are not from this City), the Port should be investing in the People of Oakland.
3. Stop Union-Busting in Longview, Washington, and Beyond. For generations, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 21 have provided a dedicated, reliable workforce for the publicly owned Port of Longview in Washington State. In recent years, the Longview Port invested hundreds of millions of dollars of public and private funds to develop a new grain-shipping facility. The multinational corporation EGT promised to respect the 80-year jurisdiction of ILWU when it was applying for public funds; in July 2011, however, EGT broke this promise and refused to hire ILWU workers. Despite recent action by the International ILWU to disassociate itself from the West Coast Port Shutdown (which is based on the International’s need to protect itself from litigation), the Longview longshore workers have welcomed this upcoming demonstration of solidarity from Occupy movements from San Diego to Anchorage. The union members have been maintaining a 24/7 picket line since June—they are currently preparing winterized picket tents to deal with the long Washington winter—and they need our support!
2. Work to Sustain the Occupy Movements. In just over two months, Occupy Wall Street and countless Occupy hubs around the world have elevated the international discourse regarding the increasing disparity of wealth between the 99% and the 1%. Millions of people have engaged in this struggle, including many who were not previously politically active. Here in Oakland, we have captured the international imagination by organizing across lines of race and class, by standing up to police brutality, and by mobilizing to shut down the third-largest West Coast port on November 2, 2011. Despite our many victories, however, the struggle for economic justice is long from over. The inequitable distribution of wealth has not been corrected. The banks have not been sanctioned for their reprehensible conduct. The same politicians and political parties are still in control. As Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara once said, “Hasta la victoria, siempre!” We must continue until the battle is won.
1. Develop a Powerful New Tactic . . . for the Revolution. Okay, so some of you may not be totally bought in to the idea of radical social change. But if we examine the Occupy Wall Street movement in all of its forms, what we are really asking for is a transformational shift in our current economic and political system. Whether you call this “revolution” or “social change” or “lots and lots of reform,” the doctrinal language is not important. We are all talking about changing the system. And to do so, we are essentially in a negotiation with the 1%; they must be convinced that providing substantial concessions to working people is the only way out of this crisis. The West Coast Port Shutdown will hit the 1%—the bankers, the shippers, the transnational corporations—in their pocketbook. Of course, it won’t change the system overnight, but it will give the ruling elite something serious to think about.
 Waterfront Action, “Horace Carpentier.” Article at http://www.waterfrontaction.org/learn/horace.htm.
 Allan Sloan, “An Unsavory Slice of Subprime,” Washington Post (Oct. 16, 2007). Article at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/15/AR2007101501435.html.
 William Rogers, “Toll drivers ‘treated like dirt’ fired for speaking up,” Left Labor Reporter (Nov. 11, 2011). Article at http://leftlaborreporter.wordpress.com/2011/11/11/toll-drivers-treated-like-dirt-fired-for-speaking-up/.
 See Charter of the City of Oakland, Article VII, Sections 700-717. The Charter is online at http://library.municode.com/Html/16308/level2/THCHOA_ARTVIIPOOA.html.
 Source: SEIU Local 1021, Port Chapter.
 Katy Murphy, “Oakland school closures: Is a $2 million savings worth the cost?”, Oakland Tribune (Oct. 23, 2011). Available at http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_19172351.
 Port of Oakland, July 1, 2011, Press Release. Available at http://www.portofoakland.com/newsroom/pressrel/view.asp?id=229.
 Kim Masters, “Bill Clinton’s $20 Million Breakup,” The Daily Beast (Mar. 29, 2010). Available at http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2010/03/29/bill-clintons-20-million-breakup.html.
 Port of Oakland, “Development,” at http://www.portofoakland.com/realesta/developm.asp.
 Los Angeles Times Blog, “Hundreds of longshoremen storm grain terminal in Washington” (Sept. 8, 2011). Available at http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/nationnow/2011/09/ilwu-longshoremen-protest-longview.html.
 Longshore & Shipping News, “San Francisco unions support ILWU Local 21 at EGT” (reprint of Sept. 26, 2011, SF Labor Council resolution), at http://www.longshoreshippingnews.com/2011/10/san-francisco-unions-support-ilwu-local-21-at-egt.
 Mary Martin, “Longshore workers prepare for long fight,” The Militant (Dec. 5, 2011). Available at http://www.themilitant.com/2011/7544/754402.html.