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Originally published December 11, 2011 at 7:50 PM | Page modified December 12, 2011 at 6:55 AM

Maritime unions oppose Occupy Seattle 'port shutdown'

Organizers of a planned Occupy Seattle "port shutdown" on Monday say union members shouldn't cross their picket line to get to work because they are forming a new kind of organized labor for everybody.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Organizers of a planned Occupy Seattle "Port shutdown" on Monday say union members shouldn't cross their picket line to get to work because they are forming a new kind of organized labor for everybody.

However, Occupy Seattle and at least seven other Occupy movements attempting similar shutdowns along the West Coast lack the crucial support of the longshoremen and maritime-trades union leadership.

"We're hoping that the longshoremen won't cross [our] picket line," said Chris Eaton, an Occupy Seattle organizer. He said individual workers have "given us kind of the thumbs up."

But union leaders have given them an emphatic thumbs down.

"Support is one thing, organization from outside groups attempting to co-opt our struggle in order to advance a broader agenda is quite another and one that is destructive to our democratic process," wrote Robert McEllrath, the president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU).

Locally, King County Labor Council Executive Secretary David Freiboth said ILWU Local 19 asked the labor council not to participate at the Port of Seattle.

"We're not supporting the shutdown, and we're not participating in it," he said.

That's going to make it hard for occupiers to achieve what they want, which is to stop work at ports in San Diego, Los Angeles, Oakland, Portland, Tacoma, Vancouver, B.C., and Houston, according to the organizing website, westcoastportshutdown.org.

Eaton said the occupiers want to show support for unions in disputes at the ports of Los Angeles, Oakland and Longview. They feel that the unions' efforts not to be exploited by corporations are in line with their anti-Wall Street sentiment.

"We're striking back at the 1 percent, and the 1 percent owns the Port," said Eaton.

Occupy Seattle plans a 1 p.m. rally at Westlake Park in downtown Seattle, followed by a march and mass bike ride to the Port of Seattle in West Seattle.

There, they plan two rallies — at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. — on public property, and a picket line at the terminal entrance near the Spokane Street fishing area, east of Chelan Avenue Southwest and Southwest Spokane Street under the Spokane Street Bridge.

Port spokeswoman Charla Skaggs said she doesn't think the events will keep Port employees from their jobs.

"From our perspective, the jobs that are generated by Port activities are the kind of jobs that really prevent wage inequity," she said. "Many of them are good family-wage jobs."

On Thursday afternoon at the Occupy Seattle encampment on the Seattle Central Community College campus, about 10 protesters were spray-painting signs to prepare for the demonstration. "Truth over authority," read one. Another: "You hold all the power in your hand."

But their specific goals were varied.

One woman said she is focusing her Port protest on "food justice" and corporations that are profiting as grain gets more expensive. Another man said he is fighting for changing the movement's name to "Decolonize Seattle," saying "Occupy Seattle" is offensive.

Emily Heffter: 206-464-8246 or eheffter@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @EmilyHeffter.

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