On May 1 a little-reported act of domestic terrorism struck the United States.
It cost our economy between $1 and $2 billion, equivalent to the theft of up to $26.66 from every American family of four – money you and your family will be paying in higher prices.
Even more troubling is that those who conspired to assault us have not been arrested, jailed, or even removed from their high-security-risk positions.
“West Coast ports were shut down,” reported The New York Times in describing Thursday’s attack.
“Cranes and forklifts stood still from Seattle to San Diego, and ships were stalled at sea as workers held rallies up and down the coast to blame the war [in Iraq] for distracting public attention and money from domestic needs like health care and education.”
“We’re loyal to America,” the Times quoted Bob McEllrath, president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, as writing, “and we won’t stand by while our country, our troops and our economy are being destroyed by a war….”
About 6,000 workers of this union’s 25,000 membership did not show up for work during Thursday’s daytime shift, leaving approximately 10,000 containers unable to be loaded or unloaded from cargo ships in 29 ports on the West Coast.
This, in turn, stymied truckers, railroads and others scheduled to transport those containers.
This work stoppage was, according to Steve Getzug of the employers’ Pacific Maritime Association, a strike in violation of the union’s labor contact.
Early in the Industrial Revolution, European workers would jam factory machinery by throwing their wooden shoes into the gears.
The shoes were called sabots, so this technique for bringing business to a halt came to be called “sabotage.”
What happened along the West Coast on Thursday was sabotage designed to send an ideological message – and to intimidate both companies and politicians with a display of disruptive union power.
Two years ago Americans were concerned that the Persian Gulf nation Dubai was acquiring facilities in American ports, and that this might somehow open us to an increased risk of Islamist terrorism. These are not the only potential terrorists.
A specter haunts the Longshoremen’s union movement – the specter of its most famous founding father, Harry Bridges, and his radical leftist ideology.
Born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1901, Bridges became a merchant seaman at 16 and arrived in the United States in 1920. In 1921 he joined the anarchist Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). Bridges was among the young radicals who looked to the fledgling Soviet Union and to expropriation of American property by governments such as Mexico as his inspiration.
“My thinking is Marxist,” Bridges later proclaimed. “And the basic thing about this lousy capitalist system is that the workers create the wealth, but those who own it – the rich – keep getting richer, and the poor get poorer.”
Bridges became the chief organizer of Longshoremen labor up and down the West Coast. In 1934, with Franklin Roosevelt in the White House, Bridges used union and goon muscle to shut down the port of San Francisco, most of the rest of the Pacific Coast, and Hawaii.
“Up and down the coast,” wrote Bridges biographer Charles Larrowe, “the waterfront was turned into a battlefield.”
Emory University historian and political scientist Harvey Klehr in a book he co-edited, The Secret World of American Communism (Yale University Press, 1995), reveals that documentation from the archives of the fallen Soviet Union identifies Bridges not only as a member of the Communist Party USA but also as a clandestine member of the CPUSA’s Central Committee.
While claiming not to be a Communist Party member loyal to Moscow, Harry Bridges led his Longshoremen union to do everything that Communist Party apparatchiks would do.
While Hitler’s Germany had a peace treaty with the Soviet Union, Bridges refused to expedite FDR’s shipments of military supplies to Great Britain. But the moment Hitler attacked the Soviet Union, Bridges mobilized his workers to set productivity records speeding the flow of goods to those opposing Nazi Germany.
During the Cold War, Bridges opposed every conflict that pitted the United States against Communism, especially the wars in Korea and Vietnam.
In his later years, Bridges promoted friendly relations between his union and the Soviet empire’s slave colonies in Communist Vietnam and Cuba, two dictatorships that permit no independent labor unions.
Bridges died in March 1990 at age 88. He lived his last years modestly on a small pension. His mainspring was Marxist ideology and power, not personal greed. He refused to take a salary or pension any higher than that of the highest paid Longshore worker.
Harry Bridges’ reactionary strong-arm labor radicalism lives on in many activist members and leaders of his International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU).
In April 1999, for example, ILWU workers staged a shutdown in support of convicted cop killer Mumia Abu Jamal. That November, they staged a work shutdown to support the neo-Marxist anti-World Trade Organization demonstrators who were smashing store windows and burning cars in Seattle.
In October 2002, the ILWU flexed its muscle through a work slowdown that cost shippers up to a billion dollars a day. Held hostage was Christmas merchandise coming in for children throughout the United States during the only reliably profitable marketing weeks of the year.
Last Thursday’s West Coast shutdown was on May Day, the traditional holiday of international Communism.
The New York Times reported that union protestors on Seattle’s waterfront “mixed with self-described socialists.”
On the East Coast organized crime has infiltrated America’s docks, and more than half a hundred union officials have been convicted on various mob and racketeering charges. The mob is not above taking Islamist terrorist petrodollars.
And longshoremen unions have been been major contributors to the Democratic politicians who shield them, including New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez, Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, and New York Senator Hillary Clinton.
We should remove security risks and saboteurs from America’s ports, starting with the 6,000 longshoremen who conspired to cause May Day’s shutdown.
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