Mark Gordienko: Open letter by Vancouver Ecosocialist Group was insultingly wrong
Factually wrong and intentionally misleading.
That’s the view of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada regarding a misguided open letter published online by the “Vancouver Ecosocialist Group” in the Georgia Straight January 13.
How this collection of individuals could come to the mistaken impression that a group of masked men illegally breaking into a secure area of the Port Metro Vancouver offices, scaring staff, and throwing chunks of coal around their workplace is in any way a legitimate “protest” is beyond me.
But it is absolutely insulting to our members for these people to associate what they call the union’s “proud history of peaceful civil disobedience”—which is correct—with the actions of a group of disguised thugs threatening workers.
The labour movement does not need to “remind the ILWU” of its brave history of standing up for the legal labour and human rights of our members and others on ships making Vancouver a port of call.
We are proud to have helped thousands of workers serving as crew on freighters visiting Vancouver obtain their pay and benefits wrongly withheld by employers over many years and to refuse to unload cargo linked to labour disputes or human rights violations.
And we are honoured to be in the same union as the brothers and sisters who fought the use of scabs in the Battle of Ballantyne Pier in 1935.
Our decision to post a $2,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the “Santa Claus” masked intruders is in keeping with our efforts to ensure members’ workplaces are safe.
Contrary to the misinformation presented as facts by the Ecosocialists, the protestors were not engaged in civil disobedience as our union has done for decades.
These people did not stage a sit-down strike or occupation and then accept arrest as a consequence of their actions of civil disobedience; they did not identify themselves; and they disappeared after causing great anxiety for the workers at the Port, who had no idea what their intentions were in invading a secure area.
They illegally broke through a fire exit; they pushed people around and when eventually caught, threw chucks of coal around the office without concern for the workers there.
They did not as the Ecosocialists claimed “attempt to hand out lumps of coal” in the Port office—one intruder actually climbed the stairs to the operations entrance and then dumped sacks of coal from the top.
How can the Ecosocialists possibly state that there was “no danger to those members” when they were not present?
They also wrongly state that “the only female staffer on the scene as protestors arrived quickly and calmly retired, untroubled by the Santas, to another part of the office complex.” That’s simply not true.
There were many female staffers in the workplace, including one who is pregnant, as well as male staffers. That workplace of nearly 300 people is almost evenly divided between men and women.
Some of our members in that workplace have thanked me for taking action and posting the reward. They were concerned about what might happen and rightly so, given the way these intruders conducted themselves.
Other protests have been completely peaceful and we fully support the right of groups opposed to the Port to do so.
But we will never condone the kind of tactics used by the masked intruders—and to in any way connect them to the ILWU’s long history of support for protest by workers defending their legal rights is grossly insulting.