Tuesday, March 20, 2012

ILWU Officials Plead Guilty

The president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union’s Local 21 chapter and a member of the union’s executive board have both pleaded guilty to charges related to last summer’s protests at the EGT terminal at the Port of Longview.

On March 15, Daniel Craig Coffman submitted a guilty plea to misdemeanor second-degree criminal trespass charges for his role in protests conducted at the ports on two occasions last September and one in July.

He was sentenced by Cowlitz County District Court to 20 hours of community service and fined $600.

Two days before Coffman issued his plea, ILWU executive board member Michael Kelly Muller pleaded guilty in Superior Court to one count of obstructing/delaying a train during a Sept. 7 picket and one count of second-degree criminal trespass during a July 11 protest.

He was sentenced to a day in jail, 10 hours of community service and $200 fine.

The pickets and subsequent arrests were part of a labor dispute between the union and EGT, the operator of a grain terminal at the port. Over the course of the protests, which lasted much of last summer, more than 200 members of ILWU Local 21 and their supporters were arrested, with most being charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct.

The dispute stemmed from company using the services of a union other than the ILWU at Berth 9, a $200 million joint venture between Bunge Ltd., ITOCHU International and STX Pan Ocean.

Local 21 had contended that its contract with the Port of Longview required that the 25 to 35 jobs inside the terminal go to ILWU labor. The company, however, said its lease agreement with the port did not specify ILWU workers. Members of Operating Engineers Local 701 had been working at the terminal.

The issue was settled under an agreement ratified by the port Jan. 27. It says that all labor at the terminal must be dispatched through the Local 21 union hall. Notably, however, the agreement did not alleviate the ILWU from responsibility for estimated hundreds of dollars in damage inflicted on the terminal during the months of protests.

Three union members who participated in the protests are facing a variety felony charges, including sabotage and assault with a deadly weapon.
Their trials are expected to begin later this year.