Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Communist Workers Party

Nassco Wildcat Shuts Down Shipyard: “Defend Our Leaders!”


First Published: Workers Viewpoint, Vol. 5, No. 30, August 18-24, 1980.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
Copyright: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.

SAN DIEGO, Ca. – The wildcat strike is on at National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (NASSCO). No work is being done in this San Diego shipyard. The U.S. military war machine is suffering another delay in the capitalists’ war preparations. With a huge allocation of San Diego police and SWATs, growing in numbers from 100 the first day of the strike, to 200 the second–close to 7,000 NASSCO workers are out and ready to take on all odds to protect their unions against NASSCO, the government and the pigs. Included in the strikers are pensioners who are still working, taking a strong stand with the younger workers against the company’s attack of union leadership.

So-Called “American Patriotism” A Flop

The wildcat was sparked off by a quick series of events taking place since last week. Wednesday, July 30, union steward Steve Crain, of International Association of Bridge, Structural and Ornamental Iron Workers, Local 627, was suspended indefinitely for cussing out a foreman. That weekend followed up with a demonstration at the “christening” of a newly finished Navy ship– with Navy brass and all sitting center stage. Since the audience was mostly NASSCO workers and their families, NASSCO and the U.S. Navy were hoping to get over the message that you may be eating sh- working in the yard, but it’s for good old American patriotism. Instead, Undersecretary of the U.S. Navy, Murray, got repeatedly interrupted by demonstrators shouting about the piss-poor working conditions at NASSCO and calling for the reinstatement of Steve Crain. As workers started shouting “We make the ships!”, the Navy and NASSCO brass tried to continue as if nothing was happening.

The demonstrators decided there would be no business as usual at this ship launching and were determined to be heard. Marching down the center aisle, straight up to the podium, the brass on center stage scattered like a bunch of loose marbles for fear of getting too close to “workers.” The podium was deserted and NASSCO workers took over the program. They let everybody know that the ship behind the stage was made under downright slavery conditions – working down in the bottom of ships where it gets as hot as 120 degrees, and nothing to breathe but hot air and paint fumes. Workers headed on up to the ship and kept on agitating from the top of the ship, cursing out NASSCO for its outright robbery of their lives. In a hurry to get the program over with, tainted with the glimpse of workers’ rule in the 80’s, the ship was launched without the usual champagne bottle.

Strike Now or Starve In ’81!

The kettle boiled over Monday afternoon. Seventeen active union stewards and workers were fired for “disrupting the ship launching.” A majority of the 17 are union stewards of Ironworkers 627 (the strongest union in the yard with Communist Workers Party sympathizers in union leadership positions) and a local of the International Association of Machinists, including the Chief and Assistant Chief Stewards of Ironworkers, and the Chief Steward of IAM. NASSCO’s target was clear–get rid of the fighting leadership of the strongest unions in the yard to prepare for the worsening conditions NASSCO has planned for the-workers in the 80’s. Bust the union so NASSCO can compete for Navy contracts at lower costs than shipyards up the coast.

Using the disruption of the ship launching as an excuse to fire 17 of the most outstanding fighters in the yard, NASSCO didn’t know they dropped a match into a powder keg. Tuesday morning after the firings, a picket was set up and the yard was shut down. As foreman and salaried employees reached the picket lines, the workers’ favorites got what was coming to them before they were kept posted near the gates, even though there was no legal injunction against the strike. An “unfair labor practices” strike, NASSCO has been unable to get a court injunction against the strikers.

Tuesday, the situation heated up between the workers and the pigs–as the pigs carried out their job like paid thugs for NASSCO. As 7 A.M. neared, when the workday begins, and as small droves of scabs tried worming their way past the pickets, the pigs moved in to disperse the main gate picket. Close to about 400 or 500 workers from the main gate area were cleared out as pigs called the picket “an illegal assembly.” Mad as hell, but not prepared to beat back the army units of pigs, workers slowly moved up across the street, where throngs of strikers cursed them out. The workers would not leave. They waited to see what was the next move the pigs would make. It took the pigs about 30 minutes to move the strikers up about two blocks, each time marching up a few feet – the strikers inching back slowly. The sentiment was not to run, not to leave, but to go back to the main gate and picket. Every time the pigs retreated back a block, thinking the masses of workers would break up, workers came back down the street-all the time calling them all the scum names they deserve.

Not clear how to resolve the situation of just going back and forth without being able to break through the police lines, strike leaders suggested the demonstration move down to hit the mayor’s office. The response was mixed, while the sentiment was to stick it out with the pigs. One worker said, “we pay taxes, we have a right to be here, let’s do it here!”

Every time the pigs got closer, a rash of spontaneous agitation came down on the pigs. One white worker yelled: “You Nazi pigs! This is Nazi Germany all over again! All they want is war, so they can redivide the world. They’re going to declare war on us before they can go to war in the world. You can’t strike under fascism! Hitler’s army!” Another Chicano worker shouted: “Yankee go home!” The white worker said’, “Yeah, Yankee go home,” knowing the Chicano worker wasn’t talking about him.

After about an hour of this back and forth, each time the workers getting up closer to the pigs to curse them out, the pigs finally decided to clear everybody out. They started charging into the people with their billy clubs used as butts to shove people out. Breaking up the demonstration into three sections, people marched out of the area. The pigs were so scared, they had blocked off the freeway exit to NASSCO. They followed groups of dispersed workers, checking out to. see where they were going. Many were taken into the homes of supportive neighbors. Even though some people broke off, about 200 people regrouped back at Chicano Park to develop, sharper plans for the strike.

The negotiations with NASSCO have resulted in them exposing even more what their aims are. The two main demands of the strike are 1) Rehire all the 17 people fired and 2) Total amnesty for the strikers. The Company wants to split up the two demands–saying they would give partial amnesty to the strikers, but they won’t rehire the 17 fired. Trying to split up the workers, setting the body of workers against its fighting leadership–they have to try and cut off the head in order to control the body.

The strike continues–the yard is still shut down.

The situation is forcing NASSCO workers to deal with what’s at the bottom of this whole situation. They know that if the union gets busted, there’s no talk of getting a decent contract in ’81. They got a taste of worker’s rule when they took over the ship launching and put the Navy and NASSCO in their place. They’ve got 300 pigs to contend with, just to maintain their picket lines. And they know through their own sweat and blood that it’s workers who build the ships and make the yards move. They got a good taste of what fascism will mean in this country, but the alternative has to be clear. Workers’ rule is the only thing that can beat back this inflation, war preparations, fascism, and cut off the money-grubbing hands of the monopoly capitalist class. One worker had part of the answer, as he chanted, “We are the working class” to the pigs. The more crucial part of the answer is “the working class has to fight for workers’ rule.”

Socialism, Not Fascism for the 80’s!

As of Aug. 10, two negotiators of the strike, Miguel Salas and Remldo Inchaurregui, both ironworkers and business agents of Local 627, were fired by NASSCO. A total of 20 workers were arrested who if convicted would be fired. Pressured by the court injunction and the lack of support from the International which sent a letter urging everyone to go back to work, and the San Diego Building Trades Council which refused to endorse the strike, workers voted on Thursday to go back to work on Monday. The spirit of going back is to “take the war back inside.” The situation’ is still so hot that the workers could go back out anytime.

The company seized the opportunity to lay out two conditions in exchange for the demand for amnesty for all workers on strike. One, the company does not want the scabs to be prosecuted and two, the union can only meet with its members on a one to one basis, thus prohibiting the union from holding lunch time meetings in the parking lots and in the yards. This is the clearest example of union busting. Both conditions were rejected by the union. Furthermore, the Local is seeking the International’s promise to sanction all future strikes. Meanwhile, a lot of spontaneous activities of sabotage are being conducted by the workers inside the yard to show NASSCO where the workers are at. NASSCO responded by beefing up security in the yard.

We Are The Working Class, Fight for Workers’ Rule!