Cover for COLE: Dockworker Power: Race and Activism in Durban and the San Francisco Bay Area. Click for larger image

Dockworker Power

Race and Activism in Durban and the San Francisco Bay Area

Waterfront battles for rights and justice

Dockworkers have power. Often missed in commentary on today's globalizing economy, workers in the world’s ports can harness their role, at a strategic choke point, to promote their labor rights and social justice causes. Peter Cole brings such overlooked experiences to light in an eye-opening comparative study of Durban, South Africa, and the San Francisco Bay Area, California. Pathbreaking research reveals how unions effected lasting change in some of the most far-reaching struggles of modern times. First, dockworkers in each city drew on longstanding radical traditions to promote racial equality. Second, they persevered when a new technology--container ships--sent a shockwave of layoffs through the industry. Finally, their commitment to black internationalism and leftist politics sparked transnational work stoppages to protest apartheid and authoritarianism.

Dockworker Power brings to light surprising parallels in the experiences of dockers half a world away from each other. It also offers a new perspective on how workers can change their conditions and world.

"Peter Cole has written a cutting-edge work that combines labor, maritime, comparative, and global history in brilliantly illuminating ways. The edge is the waterfront, whose workers make the world economy go 'round."--Marcus Rediker, author of The Slave Ship: A Human History

"Peter Cole's study of port labor and capital accumulation is the most useful US-SA comparative analysis I've seen in years. By tracing containerization, the book also clarifies ways that new technology can tear asunder socio-ecological relations, and in turn occasionally be foiled by creative, solidaristic workers—offering vital lessons from courageous dockworkers for the Fourth Industrial Revolution era."--Patrick Bond, University of the Witwatersrand

Publication supported by a grant from the Howard D. and Marjorie I. Brooks Fund for Progressive Thought.


Peter Cole is a professor of history at Western Illinois University. He is the author of Wobblies on the Waterfront: Interracial Unionism in Progressive-Era Philadelphia.

To order online:
//www.press.uillinois.edu/books/catalog/48ydk2be9780252042072.html

To order by phone:
(800) 621-2736 (USA/Canada)
(773) 702-7000 (International)

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