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Walking the picket line Unalaska Alaska (1 Viewer)

From the novel Unalaska, Alaska
by Wolf Larsen

(Please note that there are some unusual nicknames in this piece.)

…Meanwhile, Pizzaface had started up a new company called Bering Sea Stevedore. Pizzaface was not interested in going union. The union didnt do a damn thing. So I wrote up a leaflet and word for word it said:
When is the union going to do something about Pizzafaces Bering Sea Stevedoring? Were sick and tired of hearing pseudo-militant blah blah blah from union officers. We want Bering Sea Stevedoring to be union and we want it unionized now! Make no mistake about it a non-union Bering Sea Stevedoring is a threat to our jobs! Our livelihood!
Unionize Bering Sea Stevedoring now and create more work for everybody including the “B” men, the I.D. casuals, and the “500 hour” casuals who work the hatch gangs. You dont unionize companies with a bunch of useless blah blah blah. You unionize companies with strong picket lines that mean dont cross! We dont need any more blah blah blah and pathetic pleas of “dont work for Pizzaface”. We need to organize Bering Sea Stevedoring NOW! Bering Sea Stevedoring is getting more and more of the hatch gangs thats why we need to shut down Bering Sea Stevedoring with picket lines that mean dont cross! We should shut Pizzaface down right now during the busy season when it will hurt him the most. We should shut him down right now when his company is young and vulnerable. We should shut him down until Bering Sea Stevedoring is a union company with all work dispatched out of the union hall.
If our picket line is declared “illegal” then so what! What are a handful of cops against a hundred determined longshoremen? The battle to organize Bering Sea Stevedore might not be an easy one but we must do it. Every day that passes by without unionizing Bering Sea Stevedoring is a betrayal of the union, the “B” men, and the casuals. A non-union Bering Sea Stevedoring is a threat to our livelihood!
(labor donated)*
I passed out the leaflet at the union hall one morning. The reaction was overwhelmingly positive.
Less than a week later, the union set up its first picket line. I joined the picket line and held up a sign.
It was one of the worst picket lines I have ever seen. We stood there with our signs and we watched the non-union company load up lots and lots of pallets of fish unto the cargo boat.
We didnt interfere with their work at all. We didnt try and stop workers from crossing the picket line. We didnt try and stop the cargo from being loaded unto the ship. It was an “educational picket” the union leadership said.
“Whats an educational picket?” Clinton asked.
“It means we dont do anything,” Scotty responded.
Standing next to me was Chipmonk McWilson. Chipmonk’s father had been president of a big union down south. Chipmonk had a child and another on the way. He looked like he was about to cry.
So we stood there for about an hour or two, and then the union business agent at that time, Mr. Jackoff, said “Lets all meet at the union hall.”
(Now that he was the business agent we called him Mr. Jackoff.)
So we all went to the union hall expecting to hear something important.
Mr. Jackoff addressed us and said, “Today we had a beautiful moment together. It was so wonderful with all of us pulling together as one. We were a great force of solidarity. Any questions?”
I raised my hand. Mr. Jackoff called on me.
“We need more than just blah blah blah about a beautiful moment together,” I said. “We need to stop Bering Sea Stevedore in its tracks. Thats the only way well make them union is to stop them. In order to stop them we need picket lines that mean DONT CROSS!”
Mr. Jackoff replied, “We cant stop them, because there are laws against that. If we break the laws theyll impose fines on the union.”
I raised my hand. Mr. Jackoff reluctantly called on me.
“Does that mean were just going to stand there and do nothing?” I asked. “We need to make Bering Sea Stevedore union! As for fines the N.L.W.U. is powerful enough to bring the shipping companies to their knees, and make the courts back off on the fines issue.”
Then Chipmonk raised his hand. He asked the union official, “Where are all your union brothers? How come theyre not here? I notice that almost everybody here is a casual. You talked about solidarity what about solidarity from the union members? Where are they? Is the reason theyre not here because most of them dont work hatch gangs? Shouldnt they be on the picket line in solidarity regardless?”
Then one of the union officials said, “How many of you guys are registered to vote?! What we need to do is elect representatives to the city council that are more friendly to labor.”
A born-again Christian pothead raised his hand and said, “What… uh… we need to do…. guys…. is… uh… register to vote guys. We need to elect representatives to the city council that will work for us… uh…”
I raised my hand, “What we need to do is set up picket lines that mean dont cross. We have to stop Bering Sea Stevedore cold in their tracks. We need to bring Bering Sea Stevedore to its knees, and then theyll sign union.”
I attended more picket lines. But they just got more and more pathetic and sad. We stood there at the “educational” picket watching the non-union company loading lots and lots of pallets unto the cargo ship. I then wrote a leaflet, the exact wording was:
Our union officers apparently do not know what a picket line is. A picket line is not a picnic! A real picket line would shut down Bering Sea Stevedore in its tracks! A real picket line would unionize Bering Sea Stevedore. We need picket lines that mean DONT CROSS and enforce this by any means necessary.
Our union officers sound more like lawyers than union officers. They are afraid of taking the necessary strong measures to unionize Bering Sea Stevedoring. We need militant leadership in this port if were going to unionize Bering Sea Stevedoring. We need union leaders who are not afraid of organizing picket lines that SHUT DOWN BERING SEA STEVEDORING! We need picket lines that mean DONT CROSS.
Our union officers talk about fines the I.N.S. is imposing on Bering Sea Stevedoring. From hearing our union officers talk you would almost think the I.N.S. is the friends of the working class. I.N.S. fines are a pathetic substitute for labor militancy. And the I.N.S. is no friend of the working class the I.N.S. constantly harasseses our brother workers from other countries!
The longer we wait to organize Bering Sea Stevedoring the more work we all lose. We should organize Bering Sea Stevedoring NOW while this company is still young and vulnerable.
From Alaska to the West Coast if the N.L.W.U. backs down every time a non-union company shows up then the N.L.W.U. will become weaker and weaker. You dont organize new companies by playing by the rules. Union officers whine that today there are many laws against real picket lines. So what? In the 1930s many of the picket lines and strikes which organized the waterfront on the West Coast were declared illegal by the courts but the longshoremen back then continued their strikes and picket lines and they won! Perhaps our union officers should try watching a video called “We Are the N.L.W.U.”
Instead of passing injunctions against picket lines the courts and the G.L.R.B. must learn to fear the N.L.W.U.! If the courts try to destroy a union local with fines and whatnot because that local set up real picket lines then the N.L.W.U. should respond by shutting down other ports in sympathy strikes. The courts must learn to fear the N.L.W.U. If the N.L.W.U. cannot set up real picket lines then how the hell are we going to unionize new companies and new docks.
We need real picket lines that SHUT DOWN BERING SEA STEVEDORE and keep it shut down until Bering Sea Stevedore is union!
(labor donated)
I distributed the leaflet at the union hall the next morning. After the people read the leaflet the vast majority reacted with enthusiasm. “About time somebody told the truth!” Florida said.
“Youre right!” said Antonio. “We need real picket lines! Back in Mexico we had real picket lines not like here! They dont know what is a picket line here.”
Mick Jagger walked into a union officials office and gave him a copy. A minute later a union official known as “the Hippie” came out into the hall and exclaimed, “DID YOU WRITE THIS LEAFLET JAY?!”
“Yes,” I said.
“THIS IS NOTHING BUT A BUNCH OF BULLSHIT!” Hippie yelled. Then he walked backed into his office.
Then Flaco said, “Did you hear about the unions big organizing campaign?”
“Really?” Scotty exclaimed. “Theyre going to organize Bering Sea Stevedore?”
No,” said Flaco. “The union has moved on to bigger and better things! Theyre going to unionize the Parks and Culture and Recreation employees.”
“The Parks and Culture and Recreation Employees??” asked Georgia. “What for?”
“It says so right here in our union newspaper The Dispatch, how the Dutch Harbor local in Alaska has set out to organize the Parks and Culture and Recreation employees,” said Flaco.
“Yeah,” said Scotty with a laugh, “all six of them.”
“Why dont they organize Bering Sea Stevedore?” asked Antonio. “Why they fooling around with Parks and Culture?”
“Hippie! Could you come out for a minute!” yelled Mick Jagger.
Hippie came out of the office, “Yeah? What do you guys want?”
“How come you guys are organizing the Parks and Culture workers, and not Bering Sea Stevedore?” Mick Jagger asked.
“Well, originally we set out to organize the local cops into the union local, but –”
“What?!!” I exclaimed, “You guys tried to organize the cops into the union?”
“Yeah!” Hippie said. “But they voted against being represented by us. We tried hard, but in the end the cops just couldnt be won over to the idea of going union. The –”
“But Hippie,” I said, “cops break strikes! They attack picket lines!”
“Maybe its like that in Chicago or New York, but here in Dutch Harbor the cops are different,” said Hippie. “Here the cops are flowers growing out of cracks in the concrete, blessing us with heaven in front of our eyes! Here, in Dutch Harbor, the cops are beauty queens and prince charmings flying through our wet dreams and blessing the world with
I dont think thats exactly what he said, but it might as well have been for all the sense he made.
“But Hippie,” Mick Jagger interrupted, “What about Bering Sea Stevedore? Why are you guys messing around with the cops and the Parks and Recreation workers, when youre supposed to be unionizing Bering Sea Stevedore?”
“Well,” Hippie said, “Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah –”
Then the dispatcher walked out and said, “Im sorry to interrupt, but Ive got to dispatch the guys.”
“O.K. See you guys!” Hippie said. Then he went back into his office.
Copyright 2005 by Wolf Larsen

*Labor donated” means the reason that the leaflet does not bear a union bug (or stamp), from a unionized printing operation, is because the leaflet was printed by voluntary efforts.