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ILWU leader: ‘The way to invoke change is to deny labor’

The following are excerpts from a June 18 talk by Keith Shanklin, the President of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 34. Shanklin was a guest speaker at a June 18 PSL webinar. On June 19,  the ILWU held a one-day strike, shutting down all 29 ports on the West Coast for eight hours in solidarity with, and as a part of the growing movement for Black lives.

Good afternoon, my name is Keith Shanklin and I’m the President of Local 34. We have a long history of fighting for human rights and the struggle to better the human condition and working conditions alongside people who have been wronged.

The ILWU Local 34 has always been a vanguard of people’s rights. We do not allow them to be trampled on, or used as a crutch for the wealthy to find a way to come up on their own. We try our best to give the people who do not have a voice, a voice, and people who do not have strength, strength, and people who do not have a leg to stand on an easier way to walk.

The Longshore Division [of the ILWU] called on its International to let them know that after events on May 25, 2020, with the public lynching of George Floyd, we couldn’t just stand idly by and not be able to have some kind of action to let the American public know that we cannot tolerate that any more. 

The ILWU will bring forth the public outcry for change

We can’t have business as usual. We need to make a change. And the one way to invoke a change is to deny labor. And if you deny labor, somewhere you’re going to get someone’s attention.

And in the United States, nothing moves if it doesn’t come through the docks. You cannot get your cars, you cannot get your combs, your brushes, your hair curlers. Anything and everything comes through the docks. [We will] stop the world’s most productive, and I mean the most productive entity from moving.  We will shut the ports down from Seattle, Washington, down to San Diego.  All 29 ports will be silent. The struggle will be one of the International Longshore Warehouse Union to bring forth the public outcry for change. 

It’s time for a change. We cannot just stand by and let society make the change for us. No, we have to go out there and do it ourselves. We have to take ourselves to the voting booths. We have to change the people who are in office, who don’t have the same ideas we have, who don’t have the same vision that we have, who are not trying to evoke a change, who’s trying to keep business as usual. No, we can’t have that anymore. We see that it doesn’t work. 

It’s time for Black lives to matter. Since the George Floyd case, there have been lynchings, there have been beatings, but there have been massive protests with thousands upon thousands upon thousands of people. And we are having our protest, and we hope that we can get the same thousands and thousands of people to come out, and prove to the United States, prove to America, that it’s not business as usual.

‘We’re not going to be stepping stones for the rich’

We need your support. We need you to come out and show, standup, holler, scream, let them know you’re not going to take this anymore. We are not going to be the stepping stones for the rich, for the wealthy, for the entitled. …

Black lives matter has got to be the slogan because too many people of color, a disproportionate number of people, are dying from systemic racial injustice from the police department.

It is imperative that we move in a direction of change. It is imperative that we do not let this moment pass. We must continue to show up to these demonstrations. We must continue to be a part of the solution. We must continue to step forward into the light. We can’t just fade back into the dark and let things go back to the way they were, because if we do that, we’ve given up, we’ve lost. And this is a fight we can’t lose. 

We have the momentum. We have the public behind us. Let’s move forward people. We can only go forward because the ILWU and its members, Local 10, Local 34, Local 75, Local 91, Local 54, Local 18, Local 13, Local 22, are gonna stand right next to you, wherever you are, and offer you as much support as they can. … 

‘We have the heart of a lion and are ready to roar’

It’s up to us to change things. We have the ability, we have the right, and we have the numbers. And come November, we are going to prove that the human condition in the United States, where Black lives matter, will evoke a change throughout the United States.

I use the word “change” a lot, because I really want people to understand that’s what we need. If we can’t get that change, it’s not going to be business as usual and we will not go back to the same mentality that we were: hiding in the closet. We are not scared, and we are not fearful. We have the heart of the lion and we’re ready to roar. 

And for anybody that’s out there, please join us Juneteenth at the Frank Ogawa / Oscar Grant Plaza in Oakland, California at 10 o’clock on Friday and voice your opinion, and let these politicians know that you are not scared. I want them to be shaking in their boots to see how many people we put out there. I want you to go out there and enjoy yourself, it’s a peaceful protest, but it’s a protest with numbers and we are very loud. And we are not scared, but we coming to change things and you need to standby because once we change things, we’re going to have demands.

The first thing to do, is to change the way that police departments treat us. I am for defunding police departments because these good old boys, they got to go. They got to go. And you can’t keep covering up for people who are a bad seed. [Some say] “Oh there’s only a few of them.” Well, there’s a few too many. We can’t have any of them in our midst. If you want to protect and serve, protect and serve. But you can’t protect and kill. …

So on Juneteeth, we will shut down the ports, shut down the whole entire west coast. [We will] go out in numbers and show America that we are going to make a change. Thank you.


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