Wash. port workers win
initial frame-up battles
ILWU calls mobilization to meet scab ship
AP photo/Don Ryan
Longshore workers and supporters march from courthouse in Kelso, Wash., Sept. 16.
BY MARY MARTIN
LONGVIEW, Wash.—Three stalwarts of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union here have been cleared of trumped up charges aimed at derailing the union’s battle against EGT Development. The three are the first to go to court out of more than 200 ILWU members and supporters charged by union-busting bosses and cops.
On Dec. 30, a jury deliberated just 12 minutes before finding Kelly Palmer, 44, not guilty of charges of disorderly conduct at the union picket line set up outside EGT Development’s grain terminal. Palmer was accused of blocking a car July 25 that was being driven by Martin Herman, president of Specialty Response Corp., a private cop outfit hired by EGT.
Eyewitnesses explained that Palmer, who was on picket duty that day, merely crossed EGT’s driveway to get better cell phone reception while on a call and did not block any vehicles. Herman did not attend the trial.
“I’m relieved,” Palmer told the press. “I couldn’t believe I was being arrested when I didn’t do anything wrong.”
A week earlier, ILWU member Shelly Ann Porter was acquitted of charges of assaulting an EGT officer who tried to take her photo at a July 22 union protest outside the company’s terminal at the Port of Longview. Porter pushed away the boss’s hand as he put his cell phone camera in her face.
Also on Dec. 30, prior to jury selection for a trial, prosecutors dropped their charges against ILWU member William Roberts, 42, who had been charged with disorderly conduct at the port.
EGT Development has refused to hire ILWU members at its terminal in violation of an agreement between the union and the Port of Longview. Instead, the bosses have hired members of Operating Engineers Union Local 701 through a subcontractor under inferior conditions and without a contract. If EGT prevails, it would be the first West Coast terminal run without ILWU labor in eight decades.
“I’m happy the jury saw the truth in these set-up charges,” Dan Coffman, ILWU Local 21 president, told the Militant. Local 21 organizes longshore workers here in Longview.
“These acquittals show the support for the union,” Coffman said. “There is a change of perception in what the union is up against with this Pinkerton type Specialty Response security agency and the public relations firm EGT has hired to spin their story.”
Meanwhile, the union is preparing for a large protest when EGT brings in its first ship to load grain later this month. Several unions and other organizations have pledged to come to Longview for the protest, according to Coffman.
The Committee to Defend the ILWU, a rank-and-file committee within ILWU Local 10 in San Francisco, has announced it will organize a vehicles caravan to join the protest here when the ship arrives.
The San Francisco Labor Council issued a resolution endorsing the caravan and calling on other labor organizations to do the same.
Occupy Longview has put out a national call for other Occupy groups to join the protest in solidarity. On Dec. 12 Occupy Longview organized a protest at the port of Longview in support of the union’s struggle.
At the same time, anarchists, many of whom are motivated by interests counter to those of the union battle and the working class in general, are planning to be at the port protest. An anonymous post to Anarchistnews.org, for example, called on anarchists to “bring black flags and storm the gates,” adding that they did not need to be “weighed down by Occupy’s moral stances on tactics.”
“We need to fight EGT. If they break the ILWU, who’s next?” Occupy Longview Spokesperson Paul Nipper told the Militant. “An injury to one is an injury to all. As the host Occupy group we are asking people to come here and participate in a peaceful protest exactly as our Dec. 12 protest was held. We want no arrests, no injuries, no confrontation other than the presence of our bodies and our voices.”
Financial contributions to help pay for ILWU Local 21’s fight can be made out to “EGT Fighting Fund” and mailed to ILWU Local 21, 617 14th Ave. Longview, WA 98632.
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