Saturday, September 10, 2011

[olympiaworkers] Federal injunction issued as Longshoremen storm Longview port

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) - A federal judge ordered union protesters to stop
using illegal tactics Thursday as they battle for the right to work at a
new grain terminal in Washington state.

U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton issued a preliminary injunction to
restrict union activity, saying there was no defense for the aggressive
tactics used in recent days. Protesters twice blocked the pathway of a
train carrying grain to the terminal at the Port of Longview on Wednesday,
and early Thursday morning hundreds of them stormed the facility,
overwhelmed guards, dumped grain and broke windows, police said.
[This is the labor movement at its most radical and militant. Inspiring &

The dispute halted work at four other Washington ports, including Seattle,
on Thursday as hundreds of longshoremen refused to show up or walked off
the job.

Leighton said he felt like a paper tiger because the International
Longshore and Warehouse Union clearly ignored a temporary restraining
order he issued last week with similar limits. He scheduled a hearing for
next Thursday to determine whether the union should be held in civil

"The regard for the law is absent here," the judge said. "Somebody is
going to be hurt seriously."

Six guards were trapped for a couple of hours after at least 500
Longshoremen broke down gates about 4:30 a.m. and smashed windows in the
guard shack, Longview Police Chief Jim Duscha said. He initially referred
to the guards as "hostages," but later retracted that after the guards
clarified no one had threatened them.

"The guards absolutely could not get out," Duscha said. "They feared for
their lives because of the size of the crowd and the hostility of the

No one was hurt, and nobody has been arrested - although Duscha said that
could change if police are able to use surveillance video or other means
to identify the protesters.

Most of the protesters returned to their union hall after cutting train
brake lines and spilling grain from a car at the EGT terminal, Duscha
said. They also pushed a private security vehicle into a ditch.

The union believes it has the right to work at the facility, but the
company has hired a contractor that's staffing a workforce of laborers
from another union, the Portland-based Operating Engineers Local 701.
Representatives of the engineers union did not immediately return a call
seeking comment.

In Seattle, Tacoma, Everett and Anacortes, hundreds of Longshore workers
failed to show up or walked off the job Thursday in apparent solidarity
with the Longview activists, halting work at those ports. Union leaders
said they had not called for any such actions.

"It appears the members have taken action on their own," said ILWU
spokesman Craig Merrilees from union headquarters in San Francisco.

He said some workers might have been motivated by a photograph of ILWU
President Bob McElrath in police custody in Longview on Wednesday.

McElrath was not arrested, but an Associated Press photo showed him being
grabbed by several police officers before union activists intervened and
grabbed him back.

Police arrested 19 protesters as they blocked railroad tracks on Wednesday
night, allowing the train to finally arrive at the terminal.

The protesters in Longview have portrayed themselves as being on the front
line in the struggle for jobs and benefits among American workers in an
economic downturn. But while union strife has flared up around the country
- most notably in Wisconsin - the aggressive tactics seen in Longview have
been a rarity in recent labor disputes.

Labor activists insist that after receiving tax breaks and promising to
create well-paying jobs at the new $200 million terminal, EGT initially
tried to staff the terminal with nonunion workers. Following a series of
protests by the Longshore workers this year, the company announced it
would hire a contractor staffed by workers from a different union.

"Today, the ILWU took its criminal activity against EGT to an appalling
level, including engaging in assault and significant property
destruction," the company's chief executive, Larry Clarke, said in a
written statement. "This type of violent attack at the export terminal has
been condemned by a federal court, and we fully support prosecution of
this criminal behavior to the fullest extent under the law.

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