Longshore unions across nation pay tribute to George Floyd

Members of the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) and U.S. Maritime Alliance (USMX) from Maine to Texas conducted a “peaceful protest hour” on Tuesday in honor of George Floyd.

And on the West Coast, International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) dockworkers paused for nine minutes, symbolizing the nearly nine minutes a Minneapolis officer had a knee on Floyd’s neck.

Floyd, the man who became a symbol of the Black Lives Matter movement after his May 25 death, was laid to rest in Houston on Tuesday.

Harold J. Daggett, president of the 65,000-member ILA, and David Adam, chairman and CEO of the USMX, which represents longshore industry employers on the East and Gulf coasts, had said local ports would stage their own tributes between noon and 1 p.m. Tuesday, when all ILA-USMX operations would be shut down. 

About 40 Local 1408 members walked from the union hall to JAXPORT. (Photo: Kim Link-Wills/FreightWaves)

“Our nation needs to heal and we want to demonstrate a powerful unity among our ILA and USMX family to a grieving nation that is crying for change. Together we will shut down our cranes and computers, power off our equipment to pause and reflect on how we can find a way to be better as individuals and a country where all citizens should be guaranteed the same respect, freedoms and liberties,” they said in a joint statement.

They said the historic moment brought employers and workers together.

“We may sit on opposite sides of the negotiating table but the ILA and USMX will be strongly united for this historic moment to honor the life of Mr. George Floyd and all victims of racist violence and to pledge to be the leaders that bring change for the good for all people so that George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Walter Scott and so many others have not died in vain,” they said.

In Jacksonville, Florida, some 40 members of ILA Local 1408 walked from the union hall to the entrance to JAXPORT, where their two chaplains led prayers just after noon Tuesday. 

Tuesday’s protest was peaceful. (Photo: Kim Link-Wills/FreightWaves)

“Where there is unity there is strength,” Clayton Kinson said during his prayer. 

Local 1408 President George Spencer’s message also was a spiritual one. “God loves all people,” he said.

Only passing truckers honking their horns in support interrupted the peaceful atmosphere. At one point, five squad cars were parked at the JAXPORT entrance, but police officers never approached or attempted to break up the gathering. 

Local 1408 members then again walked behind an “All Lives Matter” banner and ILA flag on the return to the union hall, where they would sit and have lunch together.

On the West Coast, ILWU dockworkers stopped work for nine minutes beginning at 9 a.m. to symbolize what the union said were the nearly nine minutes Floyd begged for his life while a Minneapolis police officer had a knee on his neck. 

“It’s time for the ILWU, in keeping with our history of fighting for racial and social justice, to be heard,” the ILWU Coast Longshore Division said in a statement. 

“The ILWU condemns all forms of racism and we state in no uncertain terms that black lives matter. We call on elected officials in local, state and the federal government to open their eyes and hearts and initiate real change to the current system, which institutionalizes the racism and police brutality that has victimized our country and our citizens for far too long,” the ILWU said.

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