May 21, 2001
Five South Carolina longshoremen are facing felony conspiracy and rioting charges punishable with up to five years in prison, in a case initiated by South Carolina Attorney General Charles Condon. Two Charleston Locals of the International Longshoremen's Association and 29 members are also being sued for 1.5 million dollars in financial damage by Winyah Stevedoring Inc. for losses caused by picketing.
The criminal charges and the suit refer to the clash between the longshoremen and the police on January 20, 2000. One hundred fifty longshoremen went out to picket a ship owned by the Danish company Nordana, which said it would no longer be unloaded by union longshoremen, and instead brought in the non-union Winyah Stevedoring Inc. from Georgetown, SC. The union members were confronted by 600 cops dressed in riot gear with dogs, horses, armored vehicles, boats, and helicopters. The cops confronted the pickets, a longshore clerk had his head busted open, and one of the cops clubbed union president Kenneth Riley over the head.
Nonetheless, today it is the strikers who are facing criminal and civil penalties. Longshore locals on all coasts have been rallying in defense of the South Carolina longshoremen, demanding the criminal charges and the suit be dropped. The AFL-CIO is supporting the campaign, as are longshore unions around the world, which have called for strikes to close down ports the day the trial opens.
Contributions to the workers' defense can be sent to:
Dockworkers Defense Fund
910 Morrison Drive
Charleston, SC 29403