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ILWU and the Anti-Apartheid Struggle

Blanco & Peter Cole


In 1984 members of the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) refused to unload South African cargo off the Nedlloyd Kimberley in San Francisco. They did so to demonstrate their opposition to South Africa’s apartheid regime. For eleven days, as thousands rallied in support, that cargo remained in the ship’s hold. This action belongs to a militant tradition in the Bay Area’s Local 10 that stretches back from the 1930s into the 21st Century. As the union’s first president, Harry Bridges once declared: “Interfere with foreign policy of the country? Sure as Hell! That’s our job, that’s our privilege, that’s our right, that’s our duty.” In 1990 while visiting Oakland, shortly after his release from prison, Nelson Mandela thanked the members of the ILWU for their support in the fight against apartheid.

Printed at the worker-owned Stumptown Printers, Portland, OR.

This is #93 in the Celebrate People’s History Poster Series

Peter Cole is a history professor at Western Illinois University. His books include Dockworker Power: Race and Activism in Durban and San Francisco among others.

Blanco is a street artist and anthropologist based in Brooklyn.