Work stoppage in support of Juneteenth shuts down West Coast ports

VANCOUVER — Ports along the West Coast of Canada and the United States are quiet as workers with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union stop operations to support racial equality and social justice.

A statement from the union says the eight-hour action honours Juneteenth, the celebration of the liberation of slaves in the United States on June 19, 1865.

The union has 60,000 members who work in ports in Alaska, British Columbia, south to California and Hawaii.

A statement posted by the Canadian union, which is autonomous from its U.S. counterpart, says the organizations have “a proud history of defending the rights and dignity of people.”

The work stoppage will affect B.C. operations within the Port of Vancouver, Prince Rupert, Stewart and Chemainus.

The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, which manages the Port of Vancouver, didn’t respond to the union action, but the Port of Tacoma in Washington state issued a statement recognizing Juneteenth.

“With this proclamation, the port is making it clear where we stand: We stand with our African American community members and that Black lives matter,” said Kristin Ang, a Port of Tacoma commissioner in a tweet posted by the port.

Rob Ashton, president of Canadian union, says in a statement that systemic racism is built into all levels of life in the United States, but this country shares the blame, in the past and the present.

“We also had slavery, there was the internment of Japanese Canadians, the incident of the Komagata Maru and the residential schools,” writes Ashton.

“In present day, we have the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and we see systemic racism in Canadian society.”

Work in the ports would resume with the start of the afternoon shift, the union says.

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