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Labor Protests Neptune Jade Lawsuit

March 4, 1998, San Francisco Bay Guardian

Hundreds of labor activists and their supporters from up and down the West Coast held a lively rally and march in downtown Oakland Feb. 28 to protest a shipping industry lawsuit brought against protesters who prevented the unloading of a cargo ship in September.

The Pacific Maritime Association filed its lawsuit Sept. 29 after activists from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and other unions put up pickets in September to stop a cargo ship, the Neptune Jade, from being unloaded at the Oakland docks. Scab workers had loaded the Neptune Jade in Liverpool, England, where 500 dockworkers were fired when they refused to cross a picket line in 1995. The Neptune Jade made its way up the West Coast and finally sailed for Asia with a full hold after longshore workers in California, Oregon, and Washington refused to unload it.

Speakers at the protest, held outside PMA's corporate headquarters, included Oakland mayoral hopefuls Ignacio De La Fuente and Jerry Brown, Liverpool strikers, and labor leaders from throughout the Bay Area. Demonstrators then made their way to Oakland Superior Court, where PMA's suit was filed.

The defendants say the PMA lawsuit is a SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) suit aimed at silencing them. In what defendants are calling an intimidation tactic, PMA lawyers have asked them to turn over the names of anyone involved in the September protest.

Earlier this month, the picketers filed an "anti-SLAPP" suit, a countersuit designed to block PMA's lawsuit on First Amendment grounds. The anti-SLAPP hearing was delayed as a result of a request by the PMA; it was scheduled to resume March 3. Though the Liverpool dockworkers agreed to a financial settlement and will not return to their jobs, supporters at the rally vowed to continue the fight for international union solidarity and the rights of all workers to honor picket lines.