Screen Actors Join Longshore Picketers

Against the Current, No. 101, November/December 2002

Peaches Johnson

THIS PAST MONDAY Night as I was watching TV, there on the screen was this Longshoreman asking for someone to drive by and honk. “Please show us some support.”

Well, I had been thinking about taking them down some food, and offering my encouragement. Yes, I remember what it was like to be out there walking that picket line, thinking that no one cares. It’s a very lonely feeling.

Well, I keep watching the news, and feeling like I should do something. So I called my friend Karl Warren and he said, Okay. Then I called my friend Arlin and he said, No!

“Get your butt out of that chair, White Devil!” Arlin loves it when I talk to him that way. “Ah, Okay!”

Anyway within the hour, we were in Arlin’s old black caddie barreling down the Harbor Freeway toward San Pedro with two dozen doughnuts and some hot coffee. When we finally exited the freeway, we started looking for them, and it wasn’t long before there they were, gathered together at one of the harbor entrances carrying their picket signs.

I’ve got to admit that we were a little nervous when we pulled up, and all the workers looked at us suspiciously. Arlin rolled down his window and said, “Hi. We’re actors and we just wanted to come by and let you know that we’re thinking about you.”

You should have seen the smiles on their faces. Well, it wasn’t long before Karl was handing out doughnuts, I was handing out Joe Bay Union United buttons, which they loved, Arlin was walking around carrying one of their signs.

Soon, we were talking with some of the workers who had traveled all the way from New Zealand and Australia to show support for their fellow union workers.

For Jobs and a Future

We asked some of the local workers why they were being locked out. They said mainly that management wants to fill the new technical jobs that will eliminate their jobs with non-union workers instead of union members from their ranks.

Karl said that one of the men told him that the union has a forty-year agreement with management that all new jobs created by technology would go to their union workers. Management had brought in their version of Ira Shepard, some guy named Joe, to do their dirty work, and renege on that longstanding agreement.

Everyone hooted and hollered when a pickup drove by with a big, fat, stuffed effigy of this character Joe propped up in back. “He broke the union in London and now he’s trying to do it here!” someone called out.

After a thirty-minute stay, some of the foreign supporters told us to follow them and we were on to our second stop. This time the New Zealand workers introduced us, and there were more smiles and handshakes all around. Arlin even found a chair.

I got my biggest shock of the evening when this one old guy who looked like Grandpa from the Munsters reached out to shake my hand, and guess what he had in his hand? You got it. A buzzer. I laughed, “There’s always a comic in the bunch.” He told me he had been working there for 47 years.

On to the third stop, where Karl continued to pass out what was left of the doughnuts, Arlin hobbled around with his sign, I think the Geritol was starting to wear off.

Meanwhile, I wandered over to this young boy warming his hands over a small bonfire. I asked whose little boy he was, and his father joined us, and told me he brought his son out because he wanted him to learn what unionism meant, and how important it was that workers learn to stand together.

Karl gave the little guy one of the last doughnuts and we all stood there silently, each with our own thoughts.

Arlin, Karl and I felt like our being there meant so much to them. And to be honest, it meant a lot to us too. Whatever we gave them was nothing compared to what they gave us in return.

ATC 101, November-December 2002