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Port workers defend their union from bosses, courts
Back ILWU, join Wash. protest of scab ship!
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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 76/No. 3      January 23, 2012


Click here for Militant Labor Forums or for Calendar Events

(lead article)
Port workers defend their
union from bosses, courts
Back ILWU, join Wash. protest of scab ship!
AP/Don Ryan
Action at Kelso, Wash., courthouse Sept. 16 demanding frame-up charges against members and supporters of ILWU Local 21 who protested union busting at Port of Longview be dropped.

LONGVIEW, Wash.—In a victory for International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 21 in its ongoing fight against union busting by EGT Development, six more Longshore workers have been cleared of frame-up charges. Three others were cleared last week.

About 200 members and supporters of the union were charged with trespass, disorderly conduct and other false allegations for their participation in union protests against EGT at the Port of Longview last summer.

In all except one of these first nine cases, Cowlitz County prosecutors dismissed the charges without prejudice. This unfortunately means they can be refiled at a later date.

EGT refuses to hire ILWU workers here, in violation of an agreement with the Port of Longview. Instead, it has hired members of Operating Engineers Union Local 701 through a subcontractor, without a contract under inferior working conditions and wages. If EGT prevails it will be the first grain terminal on the West Coast run without ILWU labor in more than 80 years.

Local 21’s union hall here is a lively organizing center as ILWU members, retirees, Ladies Auxiliary members and supporters step up their six-month fight against EGT Development and prepare a large protest for the arrival of the company’s first scab ship, expected here before the end of January.

On a visit to the union hall Jan. 7, worker correspondents for the Militant found active and retired members taking inventory of picket signs for the coming protest. Dozens of unions and organizations have pledged to participate. Their hand-written cards and messages of support along with press clippings line the union hall’s walls.

Local 21’s Community Action Committee is planning a “Community Action Movie Night” Jan. 10, where they will show “Bloody Thursday,” a documentary about the 1934 battles that led to the formation of the ILWU on the West Coast. “The purpose is to provide education and answer questions in the community,” Shelly Porter, vice president of the committee and member of Local 21, told the Militant.

“When I started out as a casual I didn’t understand the meaning of ‘an injury to one is an injury to all,’” said Porter. “It didn’t have real meaning for me until this fight with EGT. Until the day I watched my union brothers get beaten, pepper sprayed, handcuffed and arrested. They were coming to the aid of members of the union’s Ladies Auxiliary carrying out a peaceful protest and were themselves assaulted by the cops. We must educate people in the community about this fight.”

Meanwhile, Cowlitz-Wahkiakum Counties Central Labor Council issued a Jan. 1 resolution calling on the Washington State Labor Council, Oregon Federation of Labor, California Labor Federation, the AFL-CIO “and all other relevant organizations” to take part in the ship protest “when called upon to do so.”

According to Lt. Lucas Elder, a spokesman for the Coast Guard’s Portland-based marine safety unit, the Guard will deploy one or two vessels to escort the grain ship up the Columbia River, with more on call if needed. “The Coast Guard is definitely going to be involved in making sure the port is safe,” he told the Daily News.

ILWU International President Robert McEllrath issued a statement Jan. 3 to all Longshore locals to “prepare Longshore Division locals for the action that we will take when that vessel calls at EGT’s facility.”

Some forces, including anarchists, have indicated they intend to come to the protest with their own agenda and disregard the need for a disciplined union-led action to advance ILWU’s labor battle.

“We fully understand that the ILWU’s labor dispute with EGT is symbolic of what is wrong in the United States today,” McEllrath continued. “Corporations, no matter how harmful the conduct to society, enjoy full state and federal protection while workers and the middle class get treated as criminals for trying to protect their jobs and communities. However, please take extreme caution when dealing with supporters of non-ILWU sanctioned calls to action relative to EGT. Everything is at stake for the community of Longview and our members—including personal freedom. We welcome outside support for our efforts against EGT but must make effective use of collective power.”

Send messages of support and donations to the union hall: ILWU Local 21, 617 14th Ave. Longview, WA 98632. Make checks out to “EGT Fighting Fund.
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