U.S.-Japan workers solidarity: Antidote to chauvinist poison
By Deirdre Griswold, Workers World, 4 December 1997
It seems that wherever workers are fighting for their rights, the Clinton administration is in the way. It's not only the attacks on union leaders here. The U.S. government has the nerve to try and tell Japan to crack down on its unions.
One result is a 24-hour dockers' strike in Japan and deepening solidarity between U.S. and Japanese workers.
It all started in the middle of October when the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission voted to ban Japanese ships from U.S. ports as a protest over port rules in Japan. Then, in a move with military overtones, it called on the Coast Guard to stop Japanese container ships from entering or leaving U.S. ports.
The U.S. government objected to the power of the stevedores' union in Japan. The union is part of an independent association that sets the rules and costs involved in handling cargo.
International Longshore and Warehouse Union President Brian McWil liams immediately responded with a statement in solidarity with the Japanese dock-worker unions. He pledged that the ILWU, which loads and unloads ships on the West Coast in the United States and Canada, would defy the FMC and work on any Japanese ships calling here.
The Clinton administration, however, continued the pressure. Washington got Japan to agree to change longstanding harbor practices that require foreign shipping companies to consult with local stevedores before entering Japanese harbors.
That's when the National Council of Dockworkers' Unions of Japan and the Japanese Confederation of Port and Transport Workers Unions, with a combined total of 55,000 members, called a 24-hour strike for Nov. 21. It was expected to paralyze cargo-handling activities at 50 Japanese ports, including Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka and Kobe.
As cracks in the capitalist economies widen, bosses everywhere will try to shift the blame and burden onto the workers' shoulders. The longshore workers' international solidarity is a healthy antidote to the chauvinist poison of U.S. and Japanese bosses.
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