20,000 Dockworkers Refuse to Unload Russian Cargo at 29 West Coast Ports

“With this action in solidarity with the people of Ukraine, we send a strong message that we unequivocally condemn the Russian invasion."
dockworkers Los Angeles
Photo by David McNew/Getty Images
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West Coast dockworkers are refusing to load or unload Russian cargo entering or leaving all 29 West Coast ports in the United States, one of the nation's most powerful unions announced Thursday. The action in solidarity with the people of Ukraine comes as Russia shows no sign of letting up on its invasion of the country and amid widespread sanctions against Russia. 

“With this action in solidarity with the people of Ukraine, we send a strong message that we unequivocally condemn the Russian invasion,” said Willie Adams, president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Workers Union, which represents some 20,000 dockworkers in California, Oregon, and Washington. “West Coast dockworkers are proud to do our part to join with those around the world who are bravely taking a stand and making sacrifices for the good of Ukraine.”

In a press release, the union called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “an act of aggression that endangers a population of more than 40 million people, including millions of innocent men, women and children.” 

The amount of cargo at the West Coast’s two busiest ports, the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach is not a lot, with the majority arriving from Asia, according to the San Jose Mercury News. The Port of Long Beach executive director told the Mercury News that of 9.4 million containers that arrived through the port in 2021, only 11,497 were imports from Russia. A representative from the Port of Los Angeles said that less than two-tenths of a percent of cargo arrives from Russia at the port. 

Known for its demonstrations of political dissent, ILWU, the dockworkers union, has a long history of standing in solidarity with national and international struggles. In June 2020, 38,000 union members shut down all 29 of the U.S.’ Pacific Coast ports to protest the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police. In 1984, in violation of their contract, members of the union refused to unload cargo from a South African ship for 11 days in protest of apartheid. In the 21st century, West Coast longshore workers have shut down ports in protest of the Iraq War and the police killing of Oscar Grant at Oakland’s Fruitvale Station.