Hundreds of Longshore workers belonging to the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) stormed the Port of Longview early Thursday, overpowered and held security guards, damaged railroad cars, and dumped grain that is the center of a labor dispute. The Port of Longview is a new $200 million export terminal that is about to open with workers from a rival union.
Meanwhile, the dispute has prompted workers to walk out in ports along the Washington state coast, ceasing operations.
Six guards were detained for a couple of hours after 500 or more Longshoremen broke down gates about 4:30 a.m. and smashed windows in the guard shack at the Port of Longview, Duscha said.
No one was hurt, and nobody has been arrested. Most of the protesters returned to their union hall after cutting brake lines and spilling grain from car at the EGT terminal, Duscha said.
At the heart of the dispute is a fight for jobs for jobs in western Washington, where in some counties the unemployment rate is hitting 13%. The ILWU is battling the company’s decision to open the terminal without a work agreement with the union local. The union, which has worked the Longview docks since 1934, believes it has the right to work at the facility, but the company has hired a contractor that’s staffing a workforce of union operating engineers.
The National Labor Relations Board has launched a formal complaint against ILWU locals 21 and 4, accusing union members of illegally blocking shipments to the new grain terminal and intimidating workers at the facility.
The owner, EGT LLC, a joint venture of Bunge Ltd., a unit of Itochu International Inc. of Japan and STX Pan Ocean Co of South Korea, disputes that view. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union Meanwhile, the international union is investigating reports of a wildcat strike at the ports of Seattle and Tacoma. EGT states that the Port of Longview’s relationship with the union was purposely left vague in the terms of the lease.
“It appears the members have taken action on their own,” said ILWU spokesman Craig Merrilees from union headquarters in San Francisco. “We’re trying to understand how many are involved and to what extent this apparent wildcat action has spread.”
Workers reportedly walked off the job around 1:30 a.m. in ports of Seattle, Tacoma and Everett. By mid-morning, several freight trucks were parked outside the Port of Seattle terminal because of the walkout.
Port of Seattle officials confirmed operations had stopped at their terminals since the Longshore workers weren’t present.
“Port of Seattle terminals are leased to terminal operators who work directly with ILWU for staffing.” Port of Seattle officials said in a released statement. “We do not know when work will resume.”
Police from several agencies in southwest Washington, the Washington State Patrol and Burlington Northern Santa Fe responded to the violence to secure the scene that followed a demonstration Wednesday.
Thursday’s violence at Longview was first reported by Kelso radio station KLOG.
“We’re not surprised,” Duscha said. “A lot of the protesters were telling us this in only the start.”
One sergeant was threatened with baseball bats and retreated, Duscha said. “One officer with hundreds of Longshoremen? He used the better part of discretion.”
The train was the first grain shipment to arrive at Longview. It arrived Wednesday night after police arrested 19 demonstrators who tried to block the tracks. They were led by ILWU International President Robert McEllrath, who said they would return.
EGT chief executive Larry Clarke said it was unfortunate that law enforcement needed to make arrests. 09-08-2011. Reuters.