Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Longview Labor Dispute Sees Seven Arrested

An ongoing labor dispute between West Coast dockers and the operator of a nearly-complete grain terminal at the Port of Longview led to the arrest Monday of seven pro-union protesters, including one on suspicion of felony harassment.

The protests center on the decision by grain terminal operator EGT Development to use an outside union contractor instead of International Longshore and Warehouse Union members to staff the facility, a move the firm says will save it more than $1 million a year.

ILWU Local 21, which covers the Longview port and has a contract with the port, contends that the ILWU holds jurisdiction over the grain terminal.

Negotiations between EGT and the ILWU over the approximately 50 positions at the facility broke down earlier this year and local ILWU protests since have shuttered the grain facility at times and even halted rail service to the facility. The union blames EGT for the recent escalations in the protests.

EGT sued the port in January, arguing that it is not bound by the contract between the port and the ILWU. The union requested to join the port in the suit, a move that was recently approved by the court. The case is not expected to be heard until September.

Washington state authorities made the most recent arrests, according to authorities, as protesters blocked traffic at the grain terminal. Five of the protesters were arrested on suspicion of disorderly conduct, one on suspicion of trespassing and one on suspicion of felony harassment.