Dockworkers have power. Often missed in commentary on today's globalizing economy, workers in the world's ports can harness their role, at a strategic choke point, to promote their labor rights and social justice causes. Peter Cole brings such overlooked experiences to light in an eye-opening comparative study of Durban, South Africa, and the San Francisco Bay Area, California. Path-breaking research reveals how unions effected lasting change in some of the most far-reaching struggles of modern times. First, dockworkers in each city drew on longstanding radical traditions to promote racial equality. Second, they persevered when a new technology--container ships--sent a shockwave of layoffs through the industry. Finally, their commitment to black internationalism and leftist politics sparked transnational work stoppages to protest apartheid and authoritarianism. Dockworker Power not only brings to light surprising parallels in the experiences of dockers half a world away from each other. It also offers a new perspective on how workers can change their conditions and world.
Few work settings can compete with the waterfront for a long, rich history
of multi-ethnic and multiracial interaction. Here, five scholars focus
on the complex relationships involved in this intersection of race, class,
"Opens up some of the most significant questions in American labor
and social history, including the struggle for control at the workplace
and, even more important, the relationship between black and white workers
and among various ethnic groups on the docks." -- David Brundage,
author of The Making of Western Labor Radicalism: Denver's Organized Workers, 1878-1905 A volume in the series The Working Class in American History, edited by David Brody, Alice Kessler-Harris, David Montgomery, and Sean Wilentz
"During the nineteenth century, American and foreign travelers often found New Orleans a delightful, exotic stop on their journeys; few failed to marvel at the riverfront, the center of the city's economic activity. . . . But absent from the tourism industry's historical recollection is any reference to the immigrants or black migrants and their children who constituted the army of laborers along the riverfront and provided the essential human power to keep the cotton, sugar, and other goods flowing. . . . In examining one diverse group of workers--the 10,000 to 15,000 cotton screwmen, longshoremen, cotton and round freight teamsters, cotton yardmen, railroad freight handlers, and Mississippi River roustabouts--this book focuses primarily on the workplace and the labor movement that emerged along the waterfront."--From the preface
During the 1910s and 1920s, the Philadelphia waterfront was home to the most durable interracial, multiethnic union seen in the United States prior to the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) era. For much of its time, Local 8's majority was African American and included immigrants from Eastern Europe as well as many Irish Americans. In this important study, Peter Cole examines how Local 8, affiliated with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), accomplished what no other did at the time. He also shows how race was central not only to the rise but also to the decline of Local 8, as increasing racial tensions were manipulated by employers and federal agents bent on the union's destruction.