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ILWU Closes Port for Courthouse Rally for Defendants

by Ellen Starbird, August 1998

The rally in front of the courthouse was spectacularly supported by the various locals of the ILWU, who shut down the port of Oakland this morning to protest the outrage the members felt for the Employer's legal assault on their union and special persecution of Robert Irminger.

Speakers included Jack Heyman, Brian McWilliams, and a host of other officals and rank and file from the ILWU; Owen Marron, Walter Johnson, of the two coastal Central Labor Councils in the vicinity, Ed Rosario of LCLAA, and Steve Zeltzer from the Labor Party. John Hennessy, a teacher representing the Australian labor movement thanked the group for their solidarity with the recent attack on the Australian wharfies, and Ellen Starbird of Laney College thanked the crowd for their perserverance that has given Laney college the courage not to turn over the names of the students (for legal harassment) as requested by the P.M.A.

The tiny courtroom was not able to accomodate the hundreds of workers who wanted to attend so vigil was held on the courthouse steps until the end of the hearing about an hour later.

Robert Remar of the ILWU legal team reported back at the end of the rally. Clearly the judge felt the presence of history that the packed courtroom represented. He was unable to bring himself to render a decision.

He seemed to find it difficult to tell the forces of global capital that they could not martyr Robert Irminger today with a ruling in our favor; but neither was he willing to side openly with the boss by ruling against the workers either. The lawyers did a great job, but that judicial reluctance to cave in to the boss can probably in good measure be attributed to the solid presence of labor supporters at the court. Judges often do bad things, usually at the behest of the rich and powerful, but no one likes to do their bad things in front of hundreds of people.

The case was continued until August 12th, and the judge asked the ILWU to prepare a list of documents that might be turned over if the court ruled against them and asked for a conference committee to review documents to consider which (if any) might be appropriately subpoenaed by the court to turn over to the Employer. The ILWU refused, as they have consistently, to turn over documents for inspection and the judge will issue a ruling after August 12th.

If the P.M.A. got the message today ("No justice, no work!") they will drop this vendetta and there will be no follow up hearing and no need for another job action. If the P.M.A. continues to insist on a pound of flesh from Robert Irminger or anyone else, we will need to calendar August 12th for a rematch at the same location as listed below.