> World Socialist Web Site hrrp://www.wsws.org
> Union dock workers clash with police at South Carolina port
> By Jerry White
> 21 January 2000
> Back to screen version
> Hundreds of dock workers clashed with police
> early Thursday morning in Charleston, South Carolina
> during a protest against the use of nonunion
> longshoremen to load a cargo ship. At least six
> people were sent to the hospital with injuries,
> including one worker who was run down by a police car,
> and eight workers were arrested on trespassing charges.
> The clash at the US's sixth largest port was the most
> violent labor dispute on the Charleston
> waterfront since the late 1960s.
> The International Longshoremen's Association
> (ILA) has held informational pickets at the port
> since early December when the Danish shipping line,
> Nordana, began using nonunion dockworkers to load
> and unload its freighters. On January 2, 75 union
> longshoremen blocked the terminal gate for a
> short time, obstructing traffic. At the time, port authorities
> claimed that two nonunion workers were assaulted
> and some equipment and cargo vandalized.
> Tuesday afternoon more than 600 police, including
> Highway Patrol troopers from around the state, were
> brought in to guard about 20 nonunion workers
> loading the Nordana Skodsborg. On Wednesday
> evening, when two ILA protesters approached the
> entrance of the States Ports Authority (SPA)
> Columbus Street Terminal, they were confronted by
> more than 100 police and state troopers in riot gear.
> Armored police cars drove in and out of the
> terminal gates, while a police helicopter hovered
> above, using a searchlight to find additional pickets.
> Around midnight a crowd of 600 workers, who
> had been meeting in the nearby union hall, marched
> to the terminal entrance and began shouting union
> slogans. An angry standoff ensued, until police
> unleashed their attack dogs, injuring several workers.
> The protesters responded by throwing rocks,
> bricks and other debris, and tearing down police spotlights.
> At 12:30 a.m. the police charged, driving their vehicles
> towards the demonstrators, firing smoke grenades
> and attacking with wooden batons. As the protesters
> retreated, a police car struck one of the workers. The
> ILA workers screamed at police, heaved parts of a railroad
> tie at them and overturned a temporary light pole. According
> to the Charleston Post and Courier protesters also attacked
> a television cameraman and news photographer filming
> the scene.
> Police over a loud speaker ordered the workers to
> disperse, saying the protest had been declared an unlawful
> assembly. "There will be no innocent parties," the officer said.
> To punctuate the threat of further police violence several
> ambulances then began arriving at the scene. At about
> 12:45 the police charged again and pushed the protesters
> back away from the terminal, back toward the union hall.
> Several protesters were arrested.
> Police closed off several blocks leading to the
> terminal for hours following the incident, but the
> streets were reopened shortly before 8 a.m. Meanwhile
> the Danish freighter left Charleston in the predawn hours.
> Before the battle ILA Local 1422 President Kenneth Riley
> Jr. commented on the massive police presence at the port,
> saying, "If you're training for some type of terrorist attack, I
> can understand this response. But you're not dealing with
> a group of thugs here. These guys are hardworking, good
> citizens of the city."
> The eruption of anger by rank-and-file dockworkers
> apparently took the ILA officials by surprise. Riley and other
> union officials attempted unsuccessfully to calm the protesting
> workers, and had to be escorted from the scene.
> Hoping to prevent a confrontation Riley and other
> union officers had met with Nordana representatives
> Tuesday afternoon in the offices of States Ports
> Authority President and chief executive officer Bernard
> Groseclose Jr. Also present was the head of Nordana's
> nonunion stevedore company, Winyah Stevedoring.
> The ILA local president offered to have his members
> work the Nordana vessel for free. He also discussed
> a "double breasting" arrangement, whereby the ILA
> longshoremen would work under the supervision of
> the nonunion company, but Nordana refused to allow
> ILA members to work the ship. "We offered to work the
> ship for nothing. We had other deals on the table," a
> frustrated Riley told the Charleston newspaper after the meeting.
> Port authorities were also dismayed at the failure
> of the union officials to hold back the anger of the
> longshoremen. SPA President Groseclose said,
> "Charleston has had an enviable reputation of having
> agreeable labor relationships, very smooth operations,
> and high productivity. And that's a credit to
> the longshore labor, our people and all the parties."
> Port officials said they expected the ILA and the company
> to resume talks before the next Nordana vessel returns
> to Charleston in about two weeks.