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The Long Beach Press-Telegram (California)

Longshore Workers Plan Walkout To Protest Wars

Art Marroquin

West Coast dockworkers plan to walk off the job Thursday to protest the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, even though the action doesn't have the formal support of their employers or the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.

It was unclear how successful the effort will be at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, where a group of longshore workers admitted uncertainty to how widely the plan was received by other dockworkers.

"There are lots of members who are expressing their personal views and committing to this voluntary action," said Craig Merrilees, an ILWU spokesman.

ILWU executives had initially given their blessing to an eight-hour work stoppage during the busy day shift, which was suggested two months ago during a union caucus held in San Francisco.

A clause in the union's current contract allows workers to hold monthly "stop-work" meetings during the evening shift, when cargo activity is considered to be lighter.

The union withdrew its support shortly after the Pacific Maritime Association denied the union's request for the walkout. An arbitrator ruled last week that the union had to inform its members about the change in plans.

As a result, any work stoppage held Thursday will be initiated by the union's rank-and-file members, not by union executives, according to Merrilees.

"In light of those developments, we hope that May 1 will come and go without disruption," said Steve Getzug, a spokesman for the PMA, which represents the West Coast's shippers.

"We're anticipating that May 1 is a regular work day," he said.

Workers who choose to walk off the job Thursday might face some sort of discipline, but it was unclear what avenues the employers would pursue.

Immigration rights groups also plan to hold a series of marches and rallies in Los Angeles and cities across the country on Thursday to call for reforms in immigration policies.

Some port truck drivers and dockworkers have resisted signing up for the federal Transportation Workers Identification Credential because undocumented workers do not qualify for the high-tech security card.

© 2008 The Long Beach Press-Telegraph

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