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.

Comments (10) Add New Comment
The ILWU and the Construction Trades penned a pro-coal article in the Straight a few weeks back.

Now that a coal train has spilled its coal cargo into a salmon spawning creek in Burnaby, will the two authors of that article lead the clean up of said creek?

Doubtful. How embarrassing for the labour movement.
Rating: 0
Okay, Mr. Gordienko. If what you claim happened happened, then it was a blatantly, obviously, very bad thing according to all common sense.

Unfortunately, the exact problem with your version of events?


Basically, you're expecting people to believe that thing was done, on your word alone, even though it was amazingly horribly bad according to all common sense. You probably think yourself a very respected member of the community; this might explain -why- you feel able to make these utterly ridiculous assertions with your word, some pure "that's simply not true" contradiction, and a bit of flashy condescending rhetoric as though that makes you the Lord High Arbiter of Legitimate Protest. While I'm at it, I'll also remind you that civil disobedience is -by definition- illegal, meaning that you should probably look for a better way to demonize their actions than referring to their illegality as you did in your second paragraph.

Of course, this isn't the first time you've decided that facts shouldn't get in the way of your narrative; after all, in November you co-signed a Vancouver Sun op-ed DEFYING ALL CLIMATE SCIENCE to go on with 'job creation' rhetoric in denouncing opponents to expansion of the coal port. I'm sure that climate scientists appreciated your complete ignorance of how we need to literally leave most of our proven fossil-fuel reserves in the ground because even extracting them will pump more than enough pollutants in the atmosphere to cause severe, potentially catastrophic global warming -- and coal produces roughly twice as much CO2 per unit of energy as oil. Apparently your precious short-term jobs mean more to you than the habitability of the planet, without which neither you nor I nor those thousands of jobs would even exist.

I'll be waiting for you to provide the evidence to back up those claims that defy all common sense. That is, if your sense of Respectability isn't making you think that you just don't need to do that. Until then, keep in mind: the avalanche has already started; it is too late for the pebbles to vote.

(Note: since I don't know if links are allowed, I can't cite sources in text for now -- look up Skeptical Science and Real Climate on Google if you want further information on climate change from climate scientists.)
Rating: -11
The duty of union leadership is to their members first and foremost: not to "social justice" or "ecojustice" concerns. Whining about that shows a classroom grasp of reality. The "labour left" has been expected to foot the bill for the wide range of groups now ensconced under the "umbrella of concern." The people working on the waterfront want to keep their jobs and increase their job security, facts of life outside the public bureaucracies or even some frontline union positions. The ILWU and every other union representing workers in the private sector know their jobs depend upon dirty old capitalism. They know that products and commodities will be moved and they want them moved through their hands.

When the pipeline starts construction the smart money is on making it a union job all the way. This will fracture "solidarity" and force the public sector unions to decide between supporting the "green" concerns or their comrades in toil. The "ecojustice" folks will be upset that union workers are on the project, having naively expected those workers to choose protest over putting food on the table. They will be upset when union members speak out against protests that disrupt their work. Most entertaining are the threats of "sabotage" which merely serve as a means to justify violent actions by the state.

Rating: +13
Uncle Jack
I am just wondering how many of these "eco" protesters have real jobs?? Or any jobs at all!!

How many are on welfare, paid from the salaries of the hard working union workers??

How many have ever had a shovel, or a hammer in their hands, how many are in bed till noon, after partying and smoking the whole night, and only get up to line up at the soup kitchens??

Rating: +8
Yes, because people putting their safety on the line to stop climate change for the benefit of all MUST be lazy bums. Activists will continue to fight for climate justice, and when the time comes they will use whatever means necessary to stop resource extraction. You can whine about your jobs all you want - but something has to change and I don't see it coming from the likes of old "Uncle Jack" here.
Rating: -1
Whatever Means Necessary?
Does that include killing people who don't agree with you?
Rating: +3
"Will use any means necessary to stop resource extraction" in the comment above right away has convinced me that violence is a tactic for the protestors, and that the version of events by Mike Gordienko has legitimacy.
Rating: +5
"Direct Action" sounds good, but it's too vague to mean anything.

"By whatever means necessary" has a ring of intensity but also is sufficiently open ended that it could mean eco-terrorism, which is a waste of a good activist - actually of several activists, once the person is caught and sufficient leverage applied so that they turn informer on their comrades.


I argue that meaningful change is not something that is coerced, threatened, forced - sure there might be a reaction, a cessation or temporary suspension of work, but there is ugly pushback, a split in the movement, and the countenancing of behaviour that the protestor almost certainly does not want to have happen to her/him.

Isn't that obvious? If not, do this thought experiment. You, the righteous protester, are sitting in your workplace when strange people come in wearing costumes and chucking stuff about. Are you (a) amused (b) persuaded to change your ways (c) calling the cops and begging them to arrest these weirdos?

If you want actual change, you have to use the boring, slow, but proven technique of education.

PETA, the oft-ridiculed, sometimes ridiculous animal rights group, has I think very effectively spread the message that our food animals are alive and are not much different from us.

They haven't turned everyone into vegetarians. Yet vegetarianism is up, up. Red meat production is down.

That is what success looks like. It doesn't look like a bunch of morons getting themselves arrested and then mocked by a deeply unsympathetic public.
Rating: +4
Class War
What do you expect? The unions are now walled fortresses of lower middle-class complacency. They'd vote for Harper (and I'm sure many do) if they felt he'd save them from these bloody plebs.
Rating: 0
Typical liberals. One mention of violence and you have a panic attack. What about climate change which kills and displaces millions a year? Will you still defend coal ports when the food is gone?
Rating: +1
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