As one of the main targets of an upcoming Occupy action against West Coast ports, the Port of Oakland has launched a high profile marketing and communication campaign to discourage action.
The port is bracing itself for the upcoming Occupy Oakland shutdown - scheduled for Dec. 12 - by fanning out staff, commissioners, executives abroad and even locally to explain why its administration believes a shut down would seriously impact the port.
Yesterday, the port also rolled out a series of ads in major Bay Area media outlets and around the world.
"We are also getting the same message out in Sing Tao and El Mensajero [newspapers], in Chinese and Spanish, respectively," said Port of Oakland spokesman Isaac Kos-Read in an email.
Executive Director Omar R. Benjamin said the Port of Oakland is taking the possibility of another shutdown seriously. Benjamin said in the last several days, "about 30 to 50 percent" of his time has been devoted to the potential shutdown action on Dec. 12.
Occupy Oakland is joining forces with other Occupy groups as part of a coordinated West Coast port blockade to call attention to the issues around financial inequities in the U.S. and anti-union activity they allege is going on at the Longview, Wash., port. From Vancouver down to Southern California, Occupy groups are gearing up to strike out at the ports.
While the port's longshore workers union - ILWU Local 10 - has formally said it will not join in on the Dec. 12 action, Occupy organizers have repeatedly said over social media that rank-and-file union members will demonstrate their support of the action.
"Do not believe the rumor that this means the longshoremen rank-and-file, and the president of the locals don't individually support us," Boots Riley recently wrote on his Facebook page. "They do. ILWU just can't officially do it as an organization." Riley has been a publicly active with Occupy Oakland.
In the advertisement running in major Bay Area media outlets, the port is urging its supporters to help keep the port open on Dec. 12.
"Another shutdown will only make things worse - diverting cargo, tax revenue and jobs to other communities. It will hurt working people and harm our community," the advertisement reads.
The second upcoming action follows the Nov. 2, General Strike, where tens of thousands of people marched to the Port of Oakland and effectively shut it down for two shifts - one in the evening and then the following morning.
Port officials are tight lipped about how much the General Strike hurt financially, but the Executive Director Benjamin acknowledged in a Sunday phone interview that the cost is somewhere, "in the millions."
"As a result of the shutdown, people lost wages for the day," Benjamin said.
Besides immediate worker wages, Benjamin said that long term consequences included businesses that decide the port isn't a reliable, safe place to do businesses.
"Some customers make the decision to leave and it's very difficult to get those customers back," he said.
The potential for another shutdown could not have come at a worst time for the Port of Oakland, officials allege, pointing out that the port is in the middle of a busy period shipping out perishable agricultural goods that are ready for market.
"On an average day there is $8 million of cargo that go in and out of the Port of Oakland, and so any slow down or shutdown would have a big, negative effect," Benjamin said.