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Vol. 75/No. 35      October 3, 2011

On the Picket Line

ILWU workers in Wash. protest
cop harassment and arrests

LONGVIEW, Wash.—“Union members have been followed by police and pulled out of their cars,” International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 21 President Dan Coffman told the Militant. “They have been arrested at their homes at night at gunpoint, in front of their children.”

Arrests and harassment of members of the ILWU have stepped up in the wake of protests against a union-busting operation at the EGT Grain Terminal. EGT has refused to hire ILWU workers in violation of an agreement between the union and the Port of Longview. The company has instead hired members of Operating Engineers Local 701 through a subcontractor.

Twenty-six union members have been arrested for misdemeanor criminal trespass. The charges stem from a protest September 7 when unionists blocked a train from entering the EGT grain terminal here for four hours and held a follow-up protest the next day.

One union member, Ronald Stavas, was arrested on suspicion of four felony charges—burglary, assault, intimidating a witness, and sabotage—during the September 8 port protest. Charlie Cadwell, a security guard who works for Columbia Security at EGT, told a judge September 15 that Stavas was at the port protest but Cadwell at no time was concerned for his personal safety and understood that protesters were not targeting security guards.

Some 200 union members presented themselves to the county sheriff’s office September 16. “We asked the sheriff to go ahead and arrest us right then if we were on his list and to halt the late night home arrests being carried out,” Coffman said. “The sheriff’s office did not respond so we went home. Yet later that day our local vice president, Jacob Whiteside, was arrested in front of his children in a church parking lot. He was later released on bail.”

—Mary Martin

Postal workers in Iowa rally
against cuts in services, jobs

DES MOINES, Iowa—More than 100 people attended a rally and informational picket line at the main post office here September 17 to protest plans to close more than 4,400 post offices nationwide, eliminate Saturday delivery, lay off 120,000 postal workers, consolidate processing centers, cut workers’ benefits, and attack unions’ collective bargaining rights. The American Postal Workers Union sponsored the action.

“People are being deceived that we need to go to five-day service,” Marvella Holland, a 32-year veteran mail carrier, told the Militant. “And the only way we can fight this is to educate people.” Postal authorities “are using the current [economic] situation” to justify their attacks, she added.

“Rural closings are devastating for the towns,” said Ken Sagar, president of the Iowa AFL-CIO and a speaker at the rally. Donny Hobbs, mayor of Lohrville, population 356, told the rally that if they close that town’s post office it will be a half-hour round trip drive to the nearest one.

Larry Ginter, a retired farmer whose post office in Rhodes, Iowa, is slated for closure, spoke for Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement. “In wintertime that’s going to be one hell of a hardship,” he said.

The four unions representing the postal workers—APWU, National Association of Letter Carriers, National Postal Mail Handlers Union, and National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association—are hosting rallies in every congressional district September 27 to oppose these attacks. For more information go to

—Willie Cotton

Tacoma teachers strike
against union busting

TACOMA, Wash.—Nearly 2,000 striking members of the Tacoma Education Association and supporters were cheered on by hundreds of students September 16 at the school board building here. Some 93 percent of 1,900 teachers, members of the TEA, voted to defy a back-to-work injunction.

The strike started September 13, delaying the opening of school for nearly 28,000 students after agreement on a new contract was not reached.

Numerous teachers told the Militant that the heart of the issue is “involuntary displacement.” David Baughman, who teaches physical education at Stadium High School, said, “The school board wants administrators to have the right to either move or get rid of teachers based on 10 criteria. The language is open to wide interpretation and leaves no appeal by the teacher.”

At a rally in Tacoma’s Wright Park later that morning, Vance Lelli, president of the Pierce County Central Labor Council and member of ILWU Local 23 in Tacoma, said, “What you are doing here is the same thing that longshoremen are doing in Longview, standing up for your rights and stopping union busting.”

—Edwin Fruit and Mary Martin

Hyatt Hotel workers reject charge
their strike was ‘disrespectful’

CHICAGO—A one-week strike by UNITE HERE at five Hyatt hotels in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Honolulu ended September 14 with rallies and marches. Approximately 3,000 workers—room attendants, cooks, bell staff, food and beverage servers, kitchen workers, and laundry workers—walked off the job at the targeted hotels.

Hyatt workers have not had a contract since the last one expired in August 2009.

Don Welsh, CEO of the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau, issued a statement that Hyatt hotel workers were “disrespectful” and “selfish” for striking on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2011, attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. “UNITE HERE needs to get its priorities in order,” he said.

Darrel Heard, a carpet cleaner who has worked at the Hyatt Regency for 31 years, told the Militant, “If we don’t get up and scream and holler for our cause and struggle, who’s going to do it? Our priorities are straight.”

—Ilona Gersh

1,700 McGill University workers
begin strike Sept. 1 in Montreal

MONTREAL—After being without a contract since January, 1,700 staff at McGill University went on strike here September 1 as students returned for the fall session.

The strikers are members of the McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association, which is affiliated to the Public Service Alliance of Canada. They include IT technicians, clerical workers, and library assistants.

“The key issues in our strike are parity with other universities in Montreal, protection of our benefits and pensions, a fair salary grid, and shift premiums for evening and weekend work,” union president Kevin Whittaker told the Militant. “It takes workers at McGill 37 years to reach the top of their classification, as opposed to 10-15 years at other Montreal universities.”

Strikers picket five days a week outside the campus’s main entrances. Many passersby honk in support. During these reporters’ visit to the picket line September 7, Francesca Buxton, a student in history and women’s studies, was circulating a petition in solidarity with the strikers.

On September 11, about 50 strikers and supporters distributed thousands of leaflets appealing for support to people attending a football game at Molson Stadium, which is owned by McGill University. “You’re up against some big money. Good luck,” a Montreal Alouette fan told the strikers.

—Beverly Bernardo and Joe Young

Related articles:
Sugar workers’ fight wins growing support
1,300 stand strong against American Crystal
Solidarity with sugar workers’ fight
‘We won’t go away’ say NY Boathouse strikers
Chicago forum discusses Midwest workers’ struggles
Broadening out solidarity for sugar workers
Four workers killed in coal mine flood in United Kingdom  
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