Clarence Thomas

From KeyWiki
Jump to: navigation, search
Clarence Thomas

Clarence Thomas is an Oakland, California, based labor unionist and activist. He is a third-generation longshoreman.

Student activist

Clarence Thomas was a leader in the SF State Black Student Union and the Third World Liberation Front in 1968, helping to organize the longest student strike in American history.

“This was a strike to challenge the idea that Black people and people of color cannot learn, and that we are not capable of engaging in a prolonged struggle,” Thomas said. “I learned we could challenge the system and win. Those on the left need to learn to produce winners, and that is what is happening in the Occupy struggle.”[1]

Endorsed Communist Party fund raiser

Peoples Weekly World, September 11, 1999

In September 1999, Chair, East Bay Legislative Council ILWU, co-sponsored a Communist Party USA fund raising event in Berkeley. Rep. Lynn Woolsey co-sponsored the same event.[2]

People's Weekly World Banquet 2000

Co-sponsors of the October 8 2000 Bay area People's Weekly World banquet, at His Lordships, Berkeley Marina, included San Francisco mayor Willie L. Brown, the vice mayors of Berkeley and Oakland.

Sponsors included Amy Dean, South Bay Labor Council and Walter Johnson, San Francisco Labor Council. Entertainment was provided by David Winters.

Honorees were;

US Labor Against the War

Clarence Thomas, was ILWU Local 10 delegate to US Labor Against the War. He was also a member of the October 2003 US Labor Delegation to Iraq, with David Bacon and was Chairman of the ILWU AntiWar Action Committe. [4]

Millions More Movement

The Millions More Movement held an important all-day rally Oct. 15, 2005 on the National Mall that attracted an overwhelmingly African-American crowd numbering more than 1 million, according to organizers. The main demand put forth by the rally organizers and supported by the masses there was “Black power!”

Not one U.S. flag was prominent in the crowd, but the colors of the flag for U.S. Black liberation—red, black and green—could be seen everywhere.

This MMM rally was first announced in 2004 as a commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the Million Man March on Oct. 16, 1995, held at the same site. That event attracted at least 1 million, mainly Black men, and was initiated by the Nation of Islam.

The speeches were focused on a variety of issues: the prison system and the plight of political prisoners—especially Mumia Abu-Jamal, Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin (formerly H. Rap Brown) and Leonard Peltier-police brutality, reparations, voter disenfranchisement, LGBT oppression, immigrant rights, economic and political empowerment, education and health, the role of art and culture in the struggle for social justice, and much more.

The main presentation at this rally was given by the MMM’s national convener and NOI leader, the Hon. Minister Louis Farrakhan.

Among the many other speakers were Clarence Thomas and Chris Silvera from the Million Worker March Movement; Dr. Dorothy Height of the National Council of Negro Women; Indigenous leaders Russell Means and Vernon Bellecourt; Congress woman Sheila Jackson; Haitian singer Wyclef Jean; Reverends Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson; Viola Plummer of the Dec. 12 Movement; Damu Smith, Black Voices for Peace; and comedian and social activist Dick Gregory.

In a videotaped message played to the crowd, the president of Cuba’s National Assembly, Ricardo Alarcón, expressed the Cuban people’s solidarity with Katrina survivors and all the poor in the U.S. He also spoke about the case of the Cuban 5, who were imprisoned for fighting against terrorism while the U.S. aids and shelters real terrorists like Luis Posada Carriles. [5]

Free Mumia Abu-Jamal

In 2008 Clarence Thomas, Coordinator of Saving Lives Campaign ILWU Local 10, San Francisco, CA signed a statement circulated by the Partisan Defense Committee calling for the release of convicted “cop-killer” Mumia Abu-Jamal.[6]

Black Left Unity

On the weekend of May 31-Jun 1,2008, dozens of African American organizers, artists and activists convened the first Black Left Unity Meeting at the Sonia Hayes Center in Chapel Hill, NC.The gathering was a continuation of the Black Left Unity caucus that meet in Atlanta during the US Social Forum.

Those who attended the conference included Saladin Muhammad, Black Workers for Justice and the Black Workers League; ILWU Local 10 leader Clarence Thomas; activist and poet, Amiri Baraka; Million Worker March leader, Brenda Stokely; Ana Edwards, Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality; Ajamu Baraka, U.S. Human Rights Network; Patrisse Cullors, Labor Strategy Center; Efia Nwangaza; Theresa El-Amin; Kali Akuno from the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement; Jaribu Hill, Mississippi Workers for Human Rights; Vickie White, People’s Organization for Progress; labor organizer, Angaza Laughinghouse; Larry Adams, New York City Labor Against the War (NYCLAW); cultural artist, Luci Murphy; educators Muntu Matsimela, T. Menelik Van Der Meer and Sam Anderson; Yvette Modestin, Afrocaribenas y de la Diaspora; Colia Clark; and activists representing Fight Imperialism-Stand Together (FIST) and the Troops Out Now Coalition.[7]

Fifth Cuba/Venezuela/Mexico/North America Labor Conference

The Fifth Cuba/Venezuela/Mexico/North America Labor Conference, with representation from eight countries and virtually every region of the U.S., took place the weekend of Dec. 5-7, 2008. in Tijuana, Mexico.

Sponsors of the conference included the U.S./Cuba Labor Exchange; Sindicato Mexicano de Electricistas; World Organization for the Right of the People to Healthcare—Service Employees International Union 1199 NY; International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban Five; National Network on Cuba; Venezuela Solidarity Network; International Action Center; Cuba Solidarity New York; Southwest Workers Union; and Converjencia de los Movimientos de los Pueblos de las Americas; among others.

Clarence Thomas, executive board member of Local 10 of the ILWU, recounted the proud history of his local, noting that Local 10 organizer Harry Bridges was himself an immigrant worker who understood the connection between race and class. Thomas suggested that although the workers find it difficult to compete with lobbyists and corporate lawyers who defend the rich, we have the ability to take action at the point of production and must use that weapon.[8]

Nov. 2. 2011 Port shutdown

Clarence Thomas, a former officer and long-time labor activist with ILWU Local 10, spoke to John Hamilton of MRzine about the prospect of a shutdown of the Port of Oakland November 2 -- a goal of Occupy Oakland demonstrators who called a general strike that day.[9]

Clarence Thomas: "One of the reasons why they are doing it is because they are trying to defend ILWU workers in Longview, Washington, who are facing a behemoth of agribusiness, EGT. The driving force behind EGT is a leading agribusiness concern called Bunge. . . . Longshoremen have a debt of gratitude to the people who have organized this action today. . . . 30% of the funding of our pensions comes from that grain operation in the Pacific Northwest. This is an attempt to rupture the jurisdiction of longshore workers that we've had for over 77 years in this country. Wall Street is on the move, on the waterfront, looking for new profits, and the community are standing with the ILWU. They are standing with us for a reason. They know about 1984, when longshoremen refused to unload cargo from South Africa for 11 days. They know about the ILWU shutting down all 29 ports in defense of Mumia Abu-Jamal. They know about the ILWU shutting down all 29 ports on May Day, International Workers' Day, to protest the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. They understand about the ILWU and the actions that we took by not crossing the picket line in response to the murder on the high seas of those humanitarian activists taking supplies to Gaza. The ship was shut down for 24 hours, the Zim Line ship from Israel. They know about the actions that we took last October in support of Oscar Grant. And this resonates with the community. So now the community is saying: We want to stand in support of the ILWU. So, this connection is genuine, it's legitimate, and we embrace it."

8th U.S./Cuba/Mexico/Latin America Labor Conference

Clarence Thomas addresses the conference
Conference participants

The 8th U.S./Cuba/Mexico Latin American Labor Conference concluded Dec. 4 in Tijuana, Mexico. This meeting, and the three days of classes that preceded it, amplified an Encuentro Sindical Nuestra América initiative to unify the union and working-class social movements throughout the Americas. ESNA coordinators Juan Castillo from Uruguay, João Batista from Brazil, Oliverio Reyes from Mexico and Raymundo Navarro from Cuba guided the discussion throughout the week in Tijuana.[10]

Some 80 participants attended from the U.S., Mexico, Cuba, Brazil and Uruguay.

It was preceded by a three-day Worker's School for some 26 intercontinental labor activists, taught by Heriberto González del Valle, a youthful professor at the Lázaro Peña National School for Union Cadres in Havana, Cuba.

The opening panel featured Dr. Raymundo Navarro Fernández, member of the Secretariat of the Central de Trabajadores de Cuba, who spoke on the effect of the global economic crisis in his country.

With some 8 million affiliated members, the Central dos Trabalhadores e Trabalhadoras do Brasil is but one of six trade union councils in South America's economic powerhouse, Brazil. The Tijuana conference also heard from João Batista, an officer of the CTB and of the Encuentro Sindical Nuestra América.

According to participant Eric Gordon, a Communist Party USA affiliate from of Los Angeles;

For those of us in the U.S., it was gratifying to hear Batista confirm that the Occupy movement has brilliantly shown the world that "U.S. imperialism" also affects the 99 percent at home. Latin American growth rates in the last decade are directly tied to greater autonomy from U.S. banks and financial institutions.

A UAW member from Detroit, Martha Grevatt, spoke movingly about the U.S. domestic crisis, citing her hometown as "the poster child for a sick capitalist society that puts profit before human needs."

Other presenters, including the Cananea miners' strike in Mexico and the Mexican electricians union, both now under heavy attack, filled out the program. .[11]

Mexican Electrical Workers International Secretary Humberto Montes de Oca and Sergio Tolano, president of the Cananea, Mexico, miners union, participated. International Longshore and Warehouse Union member Clarence Thomas addressed the positive interaction of the Occupy Wall Street movement with port workers. World Federation of Trade Unions-Americas representative, Gilda Chacon Bravo, outlined the organization’s history, revitalization and relation to today’s struggles. Cristina Vasquez, Western representative of Workers United, and Alicia Jrapko, U.S. coordinator of the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban Five, urged a greater union voice to free the Cuban Five, who have been unjustly held in U.S. prisons for more than 13 years. The final panel debated views of the migrant/immigrant struggle.[12]

Occupy Oakland West Coast Port Blockade Press Conference, 12/09/11

Clarence Thomas at the press conference

Following "police repression" of the Occupy Movement across the country as well as the successful blockade of the Port of Oakland during the November 2nd General Strike, the Occupy Oakland General Assembly issued a call to shut down all West Coast Ports on December 12th.

This Monday "Wall Street on the Waterfront" will be confronted with coordinated port blockades in San Diego, LA, Oakland, Portland, Tacoma, Seattle, Vancouver, and Houston. The same day, Occupy Anchorage, Occupy Denver, and Occupy Wall Street will be targeting Goldman Sachs and Walmart. Local organizers of the West Coast Port Blockade held a press conference just outside the Port of Oakland at Jack London Square on December 9th to announce the reasoning behind and the plans for the mass demonstrations in Oakland.

Speakers at the press conference were Tim Simmons of Occupy Oakland; Boots Riley of Occupy Oakland, The Coup, and Street Sweeper Social Club; Betty Olson-Jones of the Oakland Education Association; Clarence Thomas of the ILWU and the Million Worker March; Mike King of Occupy Oakland; Jenna Woloshyn of Teamsters Local 70; Kimberly Rojas, Oakland Branch President of the National Postal Mail Handlers Union; Eddie Falcon of Iraq Veterans Against the War; Steve Zeltzer of the Committee to Defend the ILWU; and Bob Mandel of the Oakland Education Association.[13] .

Workers World article "Longshore workers applaud Occupy Oakland’s port shutdown"

Clarence Thomas, an ILWU Local 10 Executive Board member and national co-chair of the Million Worker March Movement, wrote an article Nov. 8, 2011, which published in Workers World, Nov. 16, 2011. entitled "Longshore workers applaud Occupy Oakland’s port shutdown".[14]

The eyes of the world were on the city of Oakland and the massive people’s march to the nation’s fifth-largest container port on Nov. 2 for the General Strike and Day of Mass Action called by Occupy Oakland. Not only has the Occupy movement gone global, Occupy Oakland has become the focal point of the movement. In fact, on Oct. 28, Egyptian pro-democracy protesters marched from Tahrir Square to the U.S. Embassy in support of Occupy Oakland and against police brutality witnessed in Oakland on Oct. 25, and commonly experienced in Egypt.
The unprecedented outpouring of a broad cross section of the community numbering in the tens of thousands is the most significant independent people’s mobilization in the U.S. thus far in the 21st century.
This call for a General Strike was in response to the coordinated military-style attack by 18 police agencies in the Bay Area that attempted to evict the encampment of Occupy Oakland at Oscar Grant Plaza, where U.S. veteran Scott Olsen, who served two tours of duty in Iraq, was critically wounded by a teargas canister shot to his head by Oakland police.
This call for a General Strike was not called by labor, and perhaps rightfully so, because only 12.9 percent of the overall workforce is unionized. In fact, in the private sector just 7.2 percent of the workers are unionized. This is the lowest percentage since 1900.
While it is true that it would take more than a week to organize a General Strike in this country, the fact of the matter is that organized labor would not get the blessing of their Democratic Party masters to take such an action. Remember, the Republican and Democratic parties are controlled by Wall Street and the 1 percent.

The rank and file of labor is ready to take militant action at the point of production or service. SEIU Local 1021 was able to get their city workers the day off to either participate in the “stop work” action or not to be required to come to work for health and safety reasons.

The Port of Oakland’s last two shutdowns came as the result of Local 10 members taking solidarity action. The first was the Justice for Oscar Grant — “Stop Police Brutality, Jail Killer Cops” — action, where longshore workers closed five Bay Area ports on Oct. 23, 2010.

The second Port of Oakland shutdown was the April 4, 2011, voluntary rank-and-file action to shut down the Port of Oakland for 24 hours on the anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in solidarity with the Wisconsin public sector workers’ fight for collective bargaining.
The resolution by the Occupy Oakland Strike Assembly states on its website the reason for shutting down the Port of Oakland:

“We are doing this in order to blockade the flow of capital on the day of the General Strike, as well as to show our commitment to solidarity with Longshore workers in their struggle against EGT in Longview, Wash. EGT is an international grain exporter which is attempting to rupture longshore jurisdiction. The driving force behind EGT is Bunge LTD, a leading agribusiness and food company which reported $2.4 billion in profit in 2010; this company has strong ties to Wall Street. This is but one example of Wall Street’s corporate attack on workers. The Oakland General Strike will demonstrate the wide-reaching implications of the Occupy Wall Street movement. The entire world is fed up with the huge disparity of wealth caused by the present system. Now is the time that the people are doing something about it. The Oakland General Strike is a warning shot to the 1% — their wealth only exists because the 99% creates it for them.”

The importance of the Port of Oakland shutdown was that it linked up labor, the community and Occupy Oakland in a strategic action at the point of production. Not only was the Port of Oakland shutdown impacting the movement of cargo in the Pacific Rim, it also disrupted rail schedules, trucking scheduling and “just in time delivery” services for companies such as Wal-Mart, on Nov. 2.

The labor movement must take a leading role in building a broad-based, working-class movement that challenges corporate rule and power by putting forward a people’s agenda, such as the one put forward by the Million Worker March Movement in 2004, which includes the following:
  • Stop corporate greed!
  • Hands off Social Security!
  • Slash the military budget!
  • Universal health care!
  • Stop dismantling public education!
  • Bring the troops home now!
  • Tax relief for the working class!
  • Repeal corporate free trade agreements!
  • Amnesty for all undocumented workers!
  • Stop offshoring American jobs!
  • Preserve and restore the environment!
  • Workers right to organize!
  • Tax the rich!
  • National living wage!
  • Truth in media!
  • End to police brutality!
  • Repeal Taft-Hartley!
  • Enforce all civil rights!
  • Guaranteed pensions!
  • Repeal Patriot Act!
The Nov. 2 General Strike and Day of Mass Action in Oakland was more than just a day of protest against corporate rule, power and police repression. It was a day of resistance interrupting the flow of commerce, and the closure of banks and the Port. It sets the example for other Occupy movements throughout the country to follow. The General Assembly of Occupy Dallas has already called for a Dallas General Strike on Nov. 30, 2011.

Carlos, Thomas and Davis support the Occupy movement

Iso laney jcarlos flier2.pdf 600 .jpg

Former Olympic bronze-medal winner Dr. John Carlos spoke alongside civil rights activists Clarence Thomas and Dr. Angela Davis before an electrified crowd at Laney College, Oakland, Wednesday November, 30, 2011. His appearance at the college was part of a national tour to promote his new memoir.

In the summer of 1968 Carlos helped define a generation when he and fellow medalist Tommie Smith both gave a black power salute while on the Olympic podium in Mexico City.

The fist-raising track star’s memoir, “The John Carlos Story: The Sports Moment that Changed the World,” has a powerful and simple message: don’t be afraid “of offending your oppressor.”

Civil rights heroes Clarence Thomas and Dr. Angela Davis of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense also spoke.

These three veteran activists had plenty to say about the lessons they learned during the ‘60s, but they were equally interested in discussing the promise of today’s Occupy movement.

Carlos has been making it a point to visit every Occupy encampment he can during his book tour around the country.

“I am here for you,” Carlos said to a crowd of thousands at Occupy Wall Street in early November. “Why? Because I am you. We’re here 43 years later because there’s a fight still to be won. This day is not for us but for our children-to-come.”

Thomas was a leader in the SF State Black Student Union and the Third World Liberation Front in 1968, helping to organize the longest student strike in American history.

“This was a strike to challenge the idea that Black people and people of color cannot learn, and that we are not capable of engaging in a prolonged struggle,” Thomas said. “I learned we could challenge the system and win. Those on the left need to learn to produce winners, and that is what is happening in the Occupy struggle.”

A third-generation longshoreman, Thomas, along with the International Longshoreman Workers Union recently played a critical role in supporting Occupy Oakland.

On Nov. 2, as tens of thousands of people marched in solidarity with the Occupy movement down to the Port of Oakland, rank-and-file ILWU members refused to cross the community picket line, effectively shutting down the port.

“The thing that makes Occupy Oakland different than other parts of the country is that we had an action with labor at the point of production,” Thomas said. “That port is one of the best examples of the power of Wall Street and American Capitalism, but when action was taken you can bet Wal-Mart was surprised; the whole Pacific Rim was affected.”

The ILWU is continuing to support the Occupy Oakland movement, which has faced escalating police repression in recent weeks. They have invited supporters from Vancouver to San Diego to march on their respective ports on Dec. 12 in an effort to shut down the entire West Coast shipping system.

“If we really want to challenge the one percent, the only thing they really understand is when you hit them in the pocket book,” said Thomas. “Working people have been told we have no power, but can you imagine if longshoremen, supported by their communities on the West and East Coasts and the Gulf, and Teamsters and airport workers all shut it down?”

“I am so proud of Oakland!” said Angela Davis, a well-known political activist, author, scholar and prison-system critic. “I spoke at Occupy Philly, Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Berlin, and everyone is talking about Oakland!”

In the ‘60s Davis was an active member of the Black Panthers and the Communist Party USA.

“I look at the young people who are involved in the Occupy movement, and it allows me to understand that the work we did was so important,” said Davis. “Imagine what the world would be like without these obscene capitalists, the one percent. Revolution is still on the agenda.”[15]

The event was sponsored by the Laney College Black Student Union and the International Socialist Organization.


[[Category: Occupy Oakland