Work halted briefly this morning at the Wando Welch Shipping Terminal as a group of protesters attempted to call attention to the plight of international factory workers.
Roughly 50 protesters demonstrated on Long Point Road outside the terminal as the Maersk Carolina docked at the port. The ship reportedly contains clothing items sewn at a Bangladeshi factory where a fire killed 112 workers in late November.
Members of the International Longshoremen's Association joined the protest and stopped unloading ships for a time before being instructed to return to work, according to members and protesters.
"When we see a picket line, as union members, our first instinct is to stop work and join in to show respect for the struggles of workers everywhere," said Leonard Riley, a Longshoremen's member.
Demonstrators contend the clothing aboard the ship is bound for Walmart and Sam's Club stores in the U.S. The activists want Walmart to donate the clothing to charity, since the garments were sewn in a factory that's widely reported to have had deplorable working conditions that led to the high body count when a fire ripped through the plant.
"We want to alert the American consumer to the terrible conditions at these factories that have killed hundreds of workers over the years," said George Hopkins, who picketed outside the shipping terminal Thursday. "Human life is the high cost of cheap clothes."
Thursday's protest in Mount Pleasant follows a similar demonstration outside the Port of Newark when the same Maersk ship made a stop to unload goods.
Demonstrators say media coverage and the work stoppage in Charleston raises awareness for their cause, but ultimately consumers will have to take a stand for there to be any real change.
"We want to see Walmart move toward more international corporate responsibility," said Brett Bursey, who works with the South Carolina Workers Rights Project.
"The sad reality is that Walmart doesn't even pay their own employees enough money. Many of their workers qualify for public assistance, so in the end the American taxpayer is subsidizing these practices."