Stevedoring Services of America (SSA) is a multi-national corporation based in Seattle Washington. SSA has offices and operations across the country--including New Orleans--and the world. Stevedoring companies like SSA are involved in the unloading and loading of goods onto and off of ships. SSA also operates a number of ports as well.
Why should the anti-war movement protest SSA?
* SSA profits from the War
The US government's so-called "Agency for International Development" has awarded a multi-million dollar contract to SSA to run the Iraqi port in Umm Qasr, where Iraqi workers and soldiers continue to put up heroic resistance to the US and British imperialist troops. This contract represents what this war is all about--US and British capitalists stealing the resources and dominating the economy of Iraq. SSA is profiting from the United State's colonial conquest of Iraq. The US is beginning by privatizing the ports, and then they will go after the real prize--the state-owned oil company. SSA also profits from this genocidal war by placing war material on ships. SSA and other stevedoring companies direct the loading onto ships of armaments and other materials needed to carry out daily atrocities against the Iraqi people--like the US "smart" bomb that killed over 50 civilians in an open air market in Baghdad on March 28. Stop the war profiteers!
* SSA is anti-union
SSA has been a leader in the bosses attack on the working conditions and standard of living of dockworkers in New Orleans. SSA has demanded, in their drive for super-profits, that workers and their unions accept lower wages, reduced benefits, lower staffing levels, and elimination of safety and heath regulations. As a result of the attack carried about SSA and other stevedore companies, along with the pro-management leadership of the International Longshore Association (ILA), the New Orleans dockworkers now make less--in nominal terms--than they did 20 years ago! The number of jobs have declined as trade has increased. Exploitation has been intensified. SSA's anti-worker and anti-union activities are not limited to New Orleans. SSA has led the attack on the west coast longshore union (ILWU)--the most progressive union in the US. The SSA, with the rest of the shipping industry, worked with the Bush administration to force dockers back to work under the provisions of the Taft-Hartley act--the slave labor act--last fall. Bush also threatened to militarize the ports if the dockers went out on strike. These moves were designed to get the ILWU to accept a concessionary contract. Therefore, taking a stand against SSA makes the connection between the war abroad, and the war at home, on workers.
* SSA supports institutionalized racism
The attacks on unionized labor on the docks has been inherently racist. The dockers in New Orleans are overwhelmingly African American. Historically the docks were a source of good paying jobs for African Americans. The attacks by SSA and the shipping industry in general has changed this and led to a deepening of racist inequality in the US. This racism parallels the racism of the war in which African Americans are over represented in both the military and in those killed in war.
* To expand the antiwar movement
This action is way to reach out to organized labor, such as the members of the ILA that work on the docks, and members of the Teamsters union that transport goods to and from the docks. These workers can take powerful anti-war actions--as their counterparts in Europe and other parts of the world already have--by refusing to handle goods for the war effort, or by shutting down production altogether. This can be done in the US! US workers have taken actions against imperialist wars and intervention. The west coast dockers refused to handle goods from the US's death squad client state in El Salvador in the 1980s, or load arms destined for counter-revolutionary forces in China during the civil war in the late 1940s, and for Russia in 1918.
* SSA attacks workers around the world
The SSA works with the US controlled World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Inter-American Development Bank, World Trade Organization, and other imperialist controlled institutions to push privatizations of ports around the world. Currently workers in Bangladesh are fighting the privatization of their countries ports and turning them over to SSA. Privatization, as the Bangladeshi workers realize, invariably results in layoffs, union busting and lower wages. By drawing the links between SSA's role in Iraq and around the world, we can strengthen the international links of the anti-war movement. Indeed, we are contacting our brother and sisters in Bangladesh to let them know about the action we are taking against SSA in New Orleans.
* SSA supports the government's attack on Civil Liberties
SSA and the US shipping industry have been major backers of the recently passed Maritime Transportation Security Act, which gives the government wider power to militarize the nation's ports and requires invasive background checks of dockworkers and other waterfront workers. Workers with recent felony convictions or prison time will be barred from work--as will any immigrant whose legal status in question. And in an echo of the anticommunist witch-hunts of the 1950s, the law allows the government to deny a "transportation security card"--that is, employment on the waterfront--to anyone who "poses a poses a terrorism security risk to the United States." The attack on civil liberties by Bush, and the growing machinery of state repression from the Homeland Security Act to the Patriot Act, which employers like SSA are supporting, is central part of the government's effort to crush both any opposition to the war and the deepening austerity being implemented to finance the war.