The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 75/No. 39      October 31, 2011

ILWU workers spread word about
union battle at Washington port
(front page)
LONGVIEW, Wash.—Members of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 21 are reaching out to other unionists and working people for solidarity in their fight against union busting at EGT Development’s grain terminal at the Port of Longview.

EGT has refused to hire ILWU workers in violation of a lease agreement with the port and instead hired members of Operating Engineers Local 701 through a subcontractor, under inferior conditions and without a contract. The ILWU has maintained picket lines outside EGT since June.

“Our challenge is to get out the word about our fight here,” Dan Coffman, ILWU Local 21 president, told the Militant. “But we are also supporting fights of other working people. Our local just sent a solidarity message and $500 to the locked-out sugar workers in North Dakota, who receive no unemployment compensation. Recently we received a photo and solidarity message signed by 42 members of Teamsters union Local 627 who have been locked out by the Emerald Performance Materials plant in Henry, Illinois, since March. We replied with a solidarity message and a $500 contribution to their fight.”

ILWU members have also joined the Occupy Portland protests, 40 miles south of Longview. “The Occupy protests are all about uniting working people and that’s great,” Coffman said.

In Japan members of the National Railway Motive Power Union of Chiba delivered a letter of protest to Itochu Corporation, one of EGT Development’s international partners, condemning the union-busting campaign. The Japanese unionists also invited Local 21 to send a representative to address an International Workers’ Solidarity Rally in Chiba City in November.

Some 300 ILWU members and supporters held a peaceful protest at the port October 13 when a grain train entered the EGT terminal.

A federal judge has threatened fines for trying to block trains from entering the terminal of $25,000 per incident for the union and $5,000 per union officer and $2,500 per union member involved.

EGT continues to fill its grain terminals. “We are not trying to block the trains at this time. We continue to protest alongside the trains on the track,” Coffman said. “We are watching what EGT does next. When the silos are full and the grain is ready to ship, EGT will bring in a ship to take it away. If ILWU members are not performing this work we will protest.”

The Inland Boatmen’s Union, which operates the tugboats that guide barges and ships to company docks along the Columbia River, has pledged its full solidarity with ILWU Local 21.

Coast Guard representatives visited the union hall, according to Coffman. They warned that under certain conditions protests directed at EGT’s shipping operation could result in revoking ILWU members’ Transportation Worker Identification Credentials, which are required to work under the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002.

U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Leighton ruled October 7 that the Port of Longview’s working agreement with the ILWU also applies to EGT. At the same time he stopped short of ruling that EGT must now hire ILWU workers and instead said the case will go to federal labor arbitration.

The ILWU has pushed for a recall ballot to remove Cowlitz County Sheriff Mark Nelson from office in response to cop assaults and harassment of union members. Officials of the union have complained that the language of the draft ballot written by County Prosecutor Monty Cobb is so watered down that it makes the union’s claims seem unserious.

The union has proposed the ballot include the following description:

“Using excessive force on Sept. 21, 2011, by 1) responding to 10 protesters with 80 officers, allowing officers to get pumped up and not decelerating the situation 2) by officers removing one protester tearing her rotor cuff, 3) by officers choking a protester to unconsciousness, and 4) by refusing medical care of two people that were excessively pepper sprayed and injured.”
Related articles:
Immigrants stand up to Alabama antiworker law
1-day strike hits plants, schools in parts of state
On the Picket Line  
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