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Longshore Workers Prepare for Long Fight

by Mary Martin
The Militant, December 5, 2011

Battle union busting at Washington port

A Cowlitz County Sheriff grabs a union worker by the throat as police move in on several hundred union workers blocking a grain train in Longview, Wash., Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011 LONGVIEW, Wash. -- Members of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 21 here are digging in for a long fight against EGT Development's union busting at the Port of Longview. Longshore workers have winterized their picket tents and continue to staff picket lines 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They have installed propane heaters and added storm flaps in the two tents set up along the fence near EGT's front gate.

EGT has refused to hire ILWU members in violation of an agreement with the Port of Longview and instead has hired members of Operating Engineers Local 701 at lower wages. West Coast ports have been worked by ILWU members for decades. If EGT prevails, Longview would be the only West Coast grain operation run without ILWU labor.

Picket lines went up in June. They are staffed by ILWU members from four locals: Local 21 in Longview; Local 8 in Portland, Ore.; Local 4 in Vancouver, Wash.; and Local 40, the ILWU clerks' union for the local region, based in Portland. The Port of Longview has limited the number of pickets on port property to eight.

"The ILWU cannot lose this fight; we are in it to win it," Dan Coffman, ILWU Local 21 president told the Militant.

Coffman went over a number of developments in December. EGT's lawsuit for supposed "unfair labor practices" will be brought before a judge for the National Labor Arbitration Board. A number of trials of union members will take place at the Cowlitz County courthouse for trespass citations issued in the course of peaceful protests at the port. And EGT will try to bring its first ship into the port to receive grain. "The ILWU will protest when this happens," Coffman said. "We have received pledges of support from many unions and from Occupy protesters who say they will join us."

In solidarity with ILWU 21's fight with EGT, Occupy Oakland protesters held a port shutdown action at the Port of Oakland November 2. Organizers of Occupy Oakland and Occupy Los Angeles are planning similar actions December 12 in solidarity with the ILWU, according to a press release posted on the Occupy Oakland website. "Our eyes are on the continued union-busting and attacks on organized labor," it said. "In particular the rupture of Longshoremen jurisdiction in Longview Washington by the EGT."

Local 21 officers have addressed Occupy Oakland protests in recent weeks and the Oakland Teachers Association.

On November 6 Coffman addressed a National Workers Rally of some 6,000 unionists in Tokyo. The rally was called to protest temporary work, privatization of the railroads, and inaction by the government toward those affected by the Fukushima nuclear reactor meltdown earlier this year. The day before, Coffman joined rail workers in Chiba City, Japan, who had delivered a letter of protest to the Itochu Corporation there in solidarity with the ILWU. Itochu is one of EGT's owners.

ILWU members have been subjected to brutality by cops while engaged in peaceful protests at the Port of Longview. Incidents are well documented and the union has filed a civil suit against local police agencies.

The Kelso Longview Business Connection ran an open letter to "business leaders" by EGT's CEO Larry Clarke in its October issue thanking local cops for defending EGT's business interests in face of union protests. "We are sincerely grateful to local law enforcement for their efforts to help protect the safety and security of local workers on the site," he stated.

"Who are the police here to protect? They serve the interests of the rich," said Coffman. "Just look at how they treat the union members and the Occupy protesters."

There has been no reply to the Militant's request for an interview with Matthew Beck, EGT's public information officer and an owner of the company.

Related Pages:
Court Denies Ruling in Labor Row by Mateusz Perkowski, Capital Press, 10/13/11
Judge Denies EGT Request for Summary Judgment, Sends Matter to Arbitrator by Erik Olson, The Daily News, 10/7/11
Longshoremen's Union Ordered to Pay $250,000 in Damages by Teresa Carson Reuters, 9/30/11
Judge Considering Fines Against Longshore Union by Associated Press, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 9/30/11
Hundreds Gather to Show Union Support by Erik Olson & Tony Lystra, The Daily News, 9/29/11
Union in Grain Terminal Dispute Wants Sheriff Recalled by Staff, KATU, 9/27/11
Longshore Union Leader: "We're Putting our Bodies on the Line." by John Wojcik, People's World, 9/26/11
ILWU Files Suit Alleging Police Brutality in Grain Terminal Dispute by Tilde Herrera KATU, 9/22/11
Police Arrest More Longview Longshoremen Following Protest by Tim Haeck, KIRO FM, 9/21/11
Union Protesters Arrested at Port of Longview, Washington by Teresa Carson, Reuters, 9/21/11
Two Arrested in Wake of Port Protest by Steve Brown, Capital Press, 9/15/11
Judge Holds Wash. Union in Contempt for Raid at Grain Terminal by Associated Press, Washington Post, 9/15/11
Longshore Workers Call for Anti-Racist Unity in Their Ranks by Cheryl LaBash, Workers World, 9/12/11
Judge Warns Union to Halt Illegal Tactics by Mike Baker Capital Press, 9/10/11
Longview Port Protests Turn Violent by Staff, Portland Business Journal, 9/10/11
Port Dispute Worries Wheat Industry by Steve Brown Capital Press, 9/9/11
National Labor Relations Board Investigates Longshoremen Union by Staff Fox News, 9/9/11
Longshoremen Strike Shuts Down Seattle Port by Liz Jones KUOW, 9/8/11
Port of Portland Back to Business After Work Walkout by Kristian Foden-Vencil Oregon Public Broadcasting, 9/8/11
Union Dispute, Turning Violent, Spreads and Idles Ports by Steven Greenhouse, New York Times, 9/8/11
Port Workers Spend Labor Day on Picket Line by Tim Wheeler People's World, 9/7/11
Federal Judge Issues Restraining Order Against ILWU Members by Erik Olsen, The Daily News, 9/1/11
NLRB Seeks Order to End 'Aggressive' Picketing at Port of Longview by Erik Olson, The Daily News, 8/30/11
Labor Dispute Slows Grain Export from Longview Port by Rob Manning Oregon Public Broadcasting, 8/29/11
Economic Boon: Fierce Battle Between Longshoremen and EGT by Erik Olson, The Daily News, 7/16/11

Mary Martin
Longshore Workers Prepare for Long Fight
The Militant, December 5, 2011

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