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    "The fight is never about grapes or lettuce. It is always about people."
    Cesar Chavez

    :: Friday, July 29, 2005 ::

    The Remarkable Harry Bridges - by Dick Meister, ZNet
    His lifelong task, then, was to shift the wealth from those who owned it to those who created it.

    Bridges began the task in earnest in 1934, leading his fellow longshoremen in a strike aimed at winning true collective bargaining rights from West Coast shipowners.

    'The shipowners said no,' Bridges' biographer Charles Larrowe recalled, 'said it with tear gas, vigilantes and billy clubs wielded by cops who thought they were in the front line against a communist takeover. Up and down the coast, the waterfront was turned into a battlefield.'

    Ten men were killed by police bullets during the three-month-long strike.
    It was a high price, but in the end the longshoremen got what they had demanded -- effective union representation and an end to the notorious system of job allocation known as the 'shape-up.' Previously, jobs were parceled out by hiring bosses, frequently in exchange for bribes from the men who lined up on the docks every morning clamoring for work.

    Their victory gave longshoremen the crucial right to have job assignments made by an elected union dispatcher at a union-controlled hiring hall, using a rotation system that spread the work evenly among them.
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