NEW YORK CITY, May 19 — On May Day, PLP members participated in events upholding workers’ solidarity at multiple CUNY campuses. One of the campus unions, the Professional Staff Congress (PSC), held rallies to celebrate the West Coast longshoreman’s (ILWU) plan to organize an eight-hour work stoppage against the war. We were excited by this opportunity to show how class-conscious industrial workers can fight for more political demands (for a critical analysis of the ILWU May Day work-stoppage see report on the May Day activities in the Bay Area, CHALLENGE, May 21, 2008).
At the events, we participated in various anti-war activities — bullhorn rallies, teach-ins, film showings and literature tables — and distributed CHALLENGE, which linked the war with the CUNY budget cuts. On one campus a dozen union members unfurled a 15-foot-long banner, “US Out of Iraq…No Attack on Iran!” in front of the cafeteria. As speakers explained the real reasons for the war on Iraq along with conditions here at home, a student called out, “What about the war in Palestine?” We invited him to join our discussion.
During another rally, a letter received early that May Day morning from the General Union of Port Workers of Iraq was read aloud (see box). Inspired by ILWU’s actions in the U.S., the Iraqi unionists were planning to stop work in Umm Qasr and Al Zubair.
On a third campus, the administration refused to grant a sound permit. When speakers began to use a handheld bullhorn, campus security backed up by city cops swarmed in, threatening to arrest the chapter chair and the speaker. So much for free speech on campus.
After these city-wide campus events, many students and union members went together to the Immigrants’ Rights Rally in Union Square.
From these successful May Day actions the potential exists for building a strong worker-student alliance and to recruit new members to PLP. We will continue to be involved in struggles on our campuses to make this happen.
(Excerpts from the May Day message from the Port Workers in Iraq to West Coast U.S. dock workers.)
In solidarity with the ILWU, the General Union of Port Workers in Iraq will stop work for one hour on May Day in the ports of Umm Qasr and Khor Al Zubair.
Dear Brothers and Sisters of ILWU in California:
The courageous decision you made to carry out a strike on May Day to protest against the war and occupation of Iraq advances our struggle against occupation to bring a better future for us and the rest of the world as well….[which] will only be created by the workers…. We in Iraq are looking up to, and support you until the victory over the U.S. administration’s barbarism is achieved.
Over the past five years the sectarian gangs who are the product of the occupation have been trying to transfer their conflicts into our ranks. Targeting workers, including their residential and shopping areas, indiscriminately using all sorts of explosive devices, mortar shells, and random shooting, were part of a bigger scheme that was aiming to tear up the society…. We are struggling to defeat BOTH the occupation and the sectarian militias’ agenda….
Long live the port workers in California! Long live May Day! Long live International solidarity!”