Federal Judge Issues
by Erik Olsen
A federal judge in Tacoma Thursday issued a temporary restraining order against the local longshore union that may clear the way for grain deliveries to the new $200 million EGT grain terminal at the Port of Longview.
The order, which will be in effect for 10 days, prohibits union members from engaging in "unlawful ... picket line violence, threats and property damage, mass picketing and blocking of ingress and egress at the facility of EGT," U.S. District Court Judge Ronald B. Leighton wrote.
Leighton's order also restricts International Longshore and Warehouse Union members from "restraining or coercing the employees of EGT, (its subcontractor General Construction), or any other person doing business in relation to the EGT facility."
A second hearing is scheduled Sept. 8 to decide whether to make the order permanent, said Richard Ahearn, director of the Seattle office of the National Labor Relations Board, which filed for the order Wednesday after receiving a complaint from EGT. Leighton was appointed to the federal bench by President George W. Bush in 2002.
Union protests have prevented train deliveries of grain to the plant since July, when hundreds of ILWU protesters blocked a mile-long train from entering the terminal. Burlington Northern Santa Fe representatives could not be reached late Thursday afternoon about whether the company will resume rail shipments as result of Leighton's order. The grain terminal is largely complete and was in a testing stage when EGT's conflict with longshore union interrupted grain shipments.
Dan Coffman, president of the ILWU Local 21, said the union will continue its two-month long picket on port-owned property outside EGT gates, adding that union members won't block vehicles or break any laws. In past incidents, union officials have blamed EGT for instigating trouble that lead to past ILWU arrests.
ILWU attorneys believe the order allows union members to maintain a presence at the site, Coffman said Thursday.
"We will not leave. We will still be there," he said.
Coffman said he did not know if union members would seek to block another incoming train
Only 16 picketers are allowed on port property at once, according to a union agreement with the port and Cowlitz County Sheriff Mark Nelson.
Leighton's order should quiet down activity at the terminal, where more than 100 longshore protesters have been arrested since July 11. Local 21 has been pressuring EGT to hire its members to run the facility, saying EGT is obligated to do so under its lease agreement with the port and an agreement between the port and union. Talks between EGT and ILWU broke off in January, and this summer EGT hired union operators employed by General Construction Co. of Federal Way to run the terminal.
In a written statement following Leighton's order Thursday, EGT CEO Larry Clarke said the order will help protect EGT employees and subcontractors and he is "eager to get the terminal up and running safely and efficiently." He did not say when he expects the terminal to start receiving grain shipments.
On Monday, the NLRB filed a formal complaint against the ILWU, alleging multiple incidents of harassment and threatening of EGT employees and vandalism of the company's property. A hearing is scheduled Oct. 11 in Portland
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