Friday, September 28, 2012

ILWU’s McEllrath Retried on Obstruction Charges

International Longshore and Warehouse Union President Robert McEllrath is being retried in a Cowlitz County, Washington court on charges that he helped obstruct a train during protests at a Port of Longview grain terminal last summer.

The retrial began Sept. 26 in Cowlitz County District Court. McEllrath was first tried in District Court last June, but the two-day trial ended after the six jurists hearing the case couldn’t agree on a verdict, resulting in a hung jury.

The union head is accused of a misdemeanor charge of obstructing a train during a Sept. 7, 2011 protest at the EGT grain terminal. Prosecutors contend he directed ILWU members and supporters to block a grain delivery train.

At the time, ILWU Local 21 was in a dispute with terminal operator EGT over EGT’s usage of labor. The local had contended that its contract with the Port of Longview required that the 25 to 35 jobs inside the terminal go to ILWU workers. 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 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.

McEllrath has denied the charge, saying he had no control over the crowd during the protest.