Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Mistrial Declared in Case Against ILWU President

The trial of International Longshore and Warehouse Union President Robert McEllrath has ended in a mistrial after a six-person jury deliberating the case in Washington state couldn’t reach a unanimous decision on the charges against him.

McEllrath had been accused of standing on the railroad tracks with several hundred other ILWU members and supporters to stop a train that was scheduled to deliver grain to the Port of Longview’s EGT grain terminal on Sept. 7, 2011.

The three-man, three-woman jury assigned to the case by the Cowlitz County District Court deliberated for about two-and-a-half hours June 29 before informing the judge that it was deadlocked on the charges, all of which were misdemeanors.

“The ILWU hopes that this result ends this chapter and that Cowlitz County can move on with the business of finding good local jobs for local workers,” union vice president Ray Familathe said.

The judge in the case has scheduled a hearing for July 5 to determine if the case will be retried.

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

Union 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 International Union of Operating Engineers Local 701 had been working at the terminal.

The Sept. 7 protest was part of a summer-long series of demonstrations by the union at the port that led to dozens of arrests.

The labor issue was settled under an agreement ratified by the port Jan. 27, which states that all labor at the terminal must be dispatched through the Local 21 union hall.

Although McEllrath had been the highest ranking union member charged in the case, he was not the only one. In March, the president of the Local 21 chapter and a member of the union’s executive board both pleaded guilty to charges related to last summer’s protests at the terminal.