Tuesday, July 19, 2011

[olympiaworkers] Union Dock Workers Block Train

July 19, 2011 The Stand.org

ILWU 21: 'We're all going to jail as a union'

UPDATE (July 19): The Daily News reports — Local ILWU dock workers will
continue to fight to work at the EGT Development grain terminal at the
Port of Longview despite the company's weekend announcement that it's
hiring a Federal Way union contractor. EGT announced Sunday that it hired
a union contractor to employ about 25 to 35 workers. The company would
likely hire from IUOE Local 701, based out of Gladstone, Ore. Two messages
left at Local 701′s headquarters were not returned Monday. Ed Taylor,
president of IUOE Local 612 based out of Tacoma, said the EGT terminal is
out of his jurisdiction and his local would not claim work from other
unions, such as the ILWU. Local 701 has not said whether it would undercut
the ILWU either.

UPDATE (July 18): The Daily News reports — In a move that "stunned" the
local longshore leadership, EGT Development announced Sunday it will hire
a union contractor to staff 25 to 35 jobs at its terminal. Federal
Way-based General Construction Co., a subsidiary of Kiewit Infrastructure
West Co., which hires workers through the International Union of Operating
Engineers, will start working at the terminal this week, EGT officials

By David Groves
The Stand

LONGVIEW (July 15) — The biggest labor dispute in Washington state —
spawning one of the more militant union campaigns in decades — is
happening right here, right now. About 100 union members were cited and
arrested earlier this week in Longview, and yesterday hundreds more
crowded onto railroad tracks to block a mile-long train.

Here's what's going on.

EGT Development, a joint venture of Japan-based Itochu Corp, South Korea's
STX Pan Ocean and St. Louis-based Bunge North America, is using non-union
labor to handle grain in the testing phase of its new $200 million
facility at the Port of Longview. All other grain export terminals from
the Columbia River to the Puget Sound have successfully and profitably
worked with unionized labor for decades.

Talks between EGT executives and the International Longshore and Warehouse
Union Local 21, which has a contract for all longshore work on Port
property, about becoming signatory to the area standard contract broke
down months ago and the company has refused to return to the table.
Instead, EGT has sued the Port in federal court, arguing that the company
was not bound by the contract with Local 21 to hire union labor on its
leased site. The company claims that keeping the facility's 50 full-time
workers non-union will save EGT $1 million a year.

Now, after months of picketing and attempts to pressure EGT to return to
the table, the ILWU members are angry.

"We are going to fight for our jobs in our jurisdiction. We have worked
this dock for 70 years, and to have a big, rich corporation come in and
say, 'We don't want you,' is a problem," ILWU 21 President Dan Coffman
told the (Longview) Daily News. "We're all together. We're all going to
jail as a union."

And go to jail they did. At a July 11 protest, members tore down a
chain-link gate and stormed the EGT grain terminal. About 100 union dock
workers, including union leaders, were cited and arrested. It was the
latest of four large-scale demonstrations the ILWU has held in the last
two months. On June 3, more than 1,000 ILWU supporters from Washington to
California rallied outside EGT's headquarters in downtown Portland. The
protests have all been loud, but nonviolent.

Yesterday (July 14), hundreds of union dock workers crowded onto railroad
tracks to block a train from delivering grain to the EGT terminal. The
Daily News reports that the 107-car train was rerouted to Vancouver
following the standoff, which prompted Burlington Northern Santa Fe to
indefinitely suspend train traffic to the grain terminal for safety

"Union longshore workers have made the Northwest one of the most
productive grain exporting regions in the world," Coffman said. "This new
grain terminal stands to gain by playing by the same rules as the other
grain operators that are making lots of money with productive union

From the start, EGT has been trying to run its new facility on the cheap.
Despite high unemployment in Cowlitz County and the availability of
hundreds of skilled union building trades workers, the Northwest Labor
Press reports that EGT imported the vast majority of its construction
crews from low-wage communities out-of-state and did not pay area standard

To make matters worse, Washington taxpayers subsidized EGT's construction
of the terminal. Operators of grain elevators like EGT get a special state
tax exemption entitling them to a "remittance equal to one hundred percent
of the amount of tax paid for qualifying construction, materials, service,
and labor."

So, to sum up: a taxpayer-subsidized international conglomerate, which is
operating on public property, is suing the public so it can avoid paying
the area's standard wages and undercut its competitors that do.

"By far this is the most intense labor event that I can remember," Cowlitz
County Sheriff Mark Nelson told the Daily News. But he said he understands
what the union is trying to accomplish even though he didn't agree with
its tactics. "Bless their hearts. These are our neighbors, too. These are
our folks. This is our community."

Stay tuned to The Stand for updates on this dispute and for information
about what you can do to support the ILWU 21 members in their struggle to
maintain standards at the Port of Longview.

Short URL: http://www.thestand.org/?p=3084

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