|AP Photo/Don Ryan|
|ILWU members and supporters protest EGT’s union-busting drive in Longview, Wash., Sept. 7.|
On Feb. 1 EGT recognized ILWU Local 21 as the bargaining representative for workers at its grain terminal here both for ship-loading operations on the dock as well as work inside its facility at the port. The union had organized several major protest actions and maintained picket lines in front of EGT’s terminal 24 hours a day since June.
The first grain ship to dock at EGT’s terminal arrived Feb. 7 and was tied up by ILWU members.
EGT had refused to hire ILWU workers in violation of an agreement between the union and the Port of Longview, which is run by the city government. The company had instead hired members of Operating Engineers Union Local 701 at inferior wages without a contract through the General Construction company. On Jan. 23 EGT laid off the General Construction employees, according to Longshore and Shipping News.
As part of the initial agreement, EGT got a change in its lease agreement with the Port of Longview, removing the stipulation that said the company had to hire ILWU labor.
Despite the lease clause, EGT organized a frontal assault against the union. But under the existing relationship of forces as determined in the class struggle, the bosses were compelled to back down. In that context, the lease change is a minor concession the bosses will try to use to their advantage in the future. But the future of the union there will be decided the same way that it won its current status.
The union has reserved the right to resume picketing at EGT if contract talks on outstanding issues break down.
The ILWU also agreed to request that all outside groups, including other labor unions and forces from the Occupy movement, refrain from picketing at EGT.
Some West Coast Occupy forces, who had been planning to caravan to Longview to block the loading of EGT’s first grain ship, have said they will wait and see if the agreement is “satisfactory to the Local 21 rank and file” to decide their next move. The union had opposed such actions, pointing out they could lead to unnecessary victimizations. No protest was held Feb. 7 when the grain ship docked.
Women protesters ‘not guilty’Meanwhile, in another victory for the union, four supporters of the ILWU were found “not guilty” Feb. 1 of blocking a train at a Sept. 21 protest against EGT at the Port of Longview. The four were part of a group of nine women who were relatives of ILWU Local 21 members and included some members of the ILWU Ladies Auxiliary no. 14.
The group was carrying out a peaceful protest by sitting down on the railroad tracks leading into the EGT terminal. The women were then assaulted by private cops of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, Cowlitz County Sheriff’s deputies and Longview Police. Three members of Local 21—Secretary-Treasurer Byron Jacobs, Kelly Muller and President Dan Coffman—were also arrested. Jacobs and Muller were assaulted by the police when they ran to assist the women.
The four women acquitted were Erica Farland, Cara Lindemann, Kahne Witham and Jennifer Wood. The other five women will face a jury trial in March. The cases of Coffman, Jacobs and Muller have not yet gone to trial.
More than 200 union members and supporters were arrested on trumped-up charges as a result of union protests against EGT in the course of the eight-month fight. Although at least 23 of these have been cleared of frame-up charges in recent weeks, including in three jury trials, scores more still face hearings or trials.
“It’s time for the prosecuting attorney to … drop the remaining charges against longshore workers and their supporters for exercising their constitutional rights during their free speech demonstrations last summer,” Leal Sundet of the ILWU Coast Committee said at the union’s international headquarters in San Francisco.
“I don’t just dismiss a whole raft of cases because a jury came back with a not guilty for certain people,” Cowlitz County Prosecutor Sue Baur responded in a statement to the press.
Meanwhile, the union is appealing more than $300,000 in fines levied by a federal judge for alleged damages incurred during union protests at the port.
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On the Picket Line
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