Today is general strike day for the Occupy Oakland protests, an escalation of the anti-Wall Street demonstrations throughout the country. The general strike, called in the wake of a brutal crackdown by area police departments against peaceful protests, have garnered national attention and at least tacit support from labor unions.
The Port of Oakland was chosen as the protest site because the International Longshore and Warehouse Union has a rare contract clause that allows workers to honor certain community picket lines. If workers arriving for a 7 p.m. shift decide not to cross the line, a shutdown could result.
Most unions, in contrast, have “no strike” clauses but are offering general support to the Occupy Oakland action. Some members, including teachers and nurses, plan to skip work and attend the marches.
The last U.S. general strike thought to be a success took place in Oakland in 1946, according to Ken Jacobs, chairman of the UC Berkeley Labor Center. During that two-day “work holiday,” only bars stayed open, on the condition that they limit sales to beer and place their jukeboxes on the sidewalk. Aaron Arrell, manager of Oaklandish, a downtown store, plans to honor history by closing and hiring a DJ for demonstrators.
CBS News reports more endorsements from organized labor.
So how are things progressing? Several area businesses have closed for the day, including Men’s Wearhouse, the Grand Lake Theater and the UC office of the President. A few schools are shuttered today as well. There are three general assemblies scheduled, with the first one starting about an hour ago. Marches on financial institutions are planned, as well as the march to the docks in an effort to shut down port activity. The city has urged downtown businesses to remain open.
Mayor Jean Quan, under fire from protesters and her own police department for her management of the protests, tweeted today that she is working with the chief of the Oakland Police Department “to ensure general strikers get message across w/o conflict that marred last week’s events.” She expressed hope that the strike would be peaceful and focused on an economic justice message.
Hundreds of protesters have already gathered at Frank Ogawa Plaza for the first general assembly.
More as it develops.
UPDATE: Here’s an eyewitness report from the protest, which has morphed into a march up Broadway. They’re chanting “Shout it out, without a doubt, banks took trillions to kick folks out.”
UPDATE II: Mike Konczal has pictures of Men’s Wearhouse and the Grand Lake Theater, both closed today in solidarity with the strike.
UPDATE III: Occupy Oakland claims on Twitter that a wildcat strike has knocked out the Port of Oakland already. Also, they say that 5,000 people are marching in downtown Oakland.