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Port Shutdown Costs Ag Time, Money

by Steve Brown
Capital Press, December 15, 2011

Terminal closures force trucks to turn around

PORTLAND -- Protesters that occupied West Coast ports on Monday didn't help their cause with Alvie Shrock or Galen Troyer.

They are two of thousands of people who lost time and money because of the massive port shutdown aimed at Wall Street businesses.

Shrock had to turn around his truck hauling 50,000 pounds of grass straw bound for South Korea when Occupy protesters blocked access to two terminals at the Port of Portland.

Shrock, a driver for J&J Truck in Halsey, Ore., had headed north early Monday morning, but it wasn't early enough. The protesters got there first, wasting a nearly 200-mile round-trip drive for Shrock.

Shrock said protesters "are trying to block Wall Street, but right now you're blocking Main Street."

"I believe in a free-market system, and it seems those people are pushing for socialism," he said.

Troyer, general manager of Smith Seed in Halsey, said three of his trucks hauling grass seed had to turn back. Exporting 55,000-pound containers to Asia and Europe is a key part of the Oregon grass seed industry, he said.

"With exports, you have deadlines to load the vessels," he said Tuesday. "If you get behind a day, you either spend more overtime to double up, or call the customers and tell them it'll be on the next vessel."

The delay cost his company at least $5,000 plus the inconvenience.

"It seems like the 1 percent are trying to keep the 99 percent from working and earning a living," he said.

"Occupy" demonstrations Monday blocked three terminals at the Port of Portland as part of a West Coast effort to shut down ports from Alaska to California.

In Oakland, Calif., Mayor Jean Quan pleaded with occupiers to go home and allow the longshoremen and truckers get on with their livelihoods.

"People have to think about the consequences," she said. "People have to think about who they are hurting."

Police in Seattle used "flash-bang" percussion grenades to disperse protesters who blocked an entrance to a Port of Seattle and 11 demonstrators were arrested.

Portland police arrested two suspects and seized weapons in the early morning. The suspects were wearing camouflage clothing and carrying a gun, a sword and walkie-talkies.

Kari Koch, a spokeswoman for Occupy Portland, said the two were not part of the demonstration.

"We do not send out folks with guns," she said. "We don't plan anything illegal."

Many of the 500 people who blocked access to the Portland terminals were unemployed like herself, she said, but the ranks also included students, retirees, union members and others who took the day off.

"Ranchers and farmers are in the 99 percent, especially family ranchers and farmers," Koch said as loud music played in the background. "They face the same inequalities as the rest of us. It's difficult for them to make a living wage. Wall Street is not a friend of the family farmer."

Protesters are most upset by two West Coast companies: port operator SSA Marine and grain exporter EGT, which has a new grain terminal at Longview, Wash. Investment banking giant

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. owns a major stake in SSA Marine and has been a frequent target of protesters.

EGT is involved in a dispute with the International Longshore Workers Union because another union's members are working at the terminal. The matter is in court.

Protesters on Tuesday tried to get into the World Trade Center in Portland, where EGT has offices. Security officers kept them out.

The decision to shut down the terminals was relayed to about 200 workers from the ILWU, which said it sympathized with the goals of the Occupy movement but disagreed with shutting down operations that would deprive its members of pay.

"The people who this hurt are the 99 percent. Truckers, electricians, longshoremen, rail workers, dockworkers by the hundreds -- they don't all get paid," Josh Thomas, spokesman for the Port of Portland, said.

Steve Brown
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Port Shutdown Costs Ag Time, Money
Capital Press, December 15, 2011

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