Class Struggle on the Waterfront

Celebrating the anniversary of the 1984 anti-apartheid longshore boycott

For eleven days in November-December 1984, the Nedlloyd Kimberley, full of cargo from South Africa, sat and rusted in San Francisco harbor as 300 longshoremen refused to touch the apartheid freight on board. This dramatic act of militant labor solidarity with the embattled black masses of South Africa by members of Local 10 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) sent a powerful message that reverberated world-wide, and was hailed by Nelson Mandela as having “established [the ILWU] as the frontline of the anti-apartheid movement.” The longshore action was actively supported throughout by hundreds who rallied at the gates of Pier 80 to show their solidarity.

The boycott originated with a motion put forward at a Local 10 Executive Board meeting by IBT supporter Howard Keylor. Jack Heyman, who later became a leading militant in Local 10, played an important role in organizing support for the unionists. On 13 December 2014, Keylor and Heyman both spoke at an IBT forum in Berkeley held to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the strike.

The speakers not only discussed the importance of the boycott at the time but also its influence on subsequent political labor actions on the waterfront such as: