Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Groups Plan EGT Grain Ship Protest

The Occupy movement and International Longshore and Warehouse Union both say they’re planning to protest at the Port of Longview’s EGT terminal to coincide with the arrival of the facility’s first grain ship, but the two groups differ drastically on their planned approaches.

In a letter to union locals last week regarding the planned protest, ILWU President Bob McEllrath said that the ship, which is due in later this month though the exact date is still undetermined, is expected to be escorted in from the mouth of the Columbia River by the US Coast Guard, and then protected by multiple law enforcement agencies.

He urged that caution be taken so that events don’t spiral out of control.

“Any showing of support for Local 21 at the time that a vessel calls at the EGT facility must be measured to ensure that the West Coast ports have sufficient manpower so as not to impact cargo movement for PMA member companies,” he wrote in the Jan. 3-dated letter.

“A call for a protest of EGT is not a call for a shutdown of West Coast ports and must not result in one,” he wrote, referencing the Dec. 12 protests by the Occupy movement that impeded cargo traffic at some ports along the North American West Coast.

Occupy Longview spokesman Paul Nipper, however, has said his group’s members would actively try to prevent the ship from being loaded and has called on Occupy members from across the country to participate.

The protests would be the latest in a series in a continued labor action against EGT, which is a joint venture between Bunge Ltd, ITOCHU International and STX Pan Ocean.

Members and supporters of ILWU Local 21 picketed the facility throughout last summer over labor issues, with the local saying its contract with the Port of Longview requires that the 25 to 35 jobs inside the terminal go to unionized labor.

The company, however, says its lease agreement with the port does not specify ILWU labor. It employs members of a different union, which represents operating engineers. A federal trial on the dispute is expected to begin in March.

During the previous pickets, some protesters stormed the facility, cut brake lines on rail cars and dumped grain from the cars, among other things, which led to dozens of people being arrested on trespassing and disorderly conduct charges.

In September, the union was ordered by a U.S. district judge in Tacoma to pay $250,000 in damages.