By David Groves
LONGVIEW — A major labor dispute at the Port of Longview, which has included more than 100 arrests and citations — including seven more arrests Monday morning — and hundreds of union dockworkers blocking a mile-long train to prevent grain shipments, has escalated even more after the terminal operator, EGT Development, began escorting workers from another union to work at the facility.
In the company’s attempt to become the first grain export terminal in Washington to use non-union labor, EGT has sued the Port in federal court to avoid hiring members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 21, which has a contract for all longshore work on Port property. ILWU 21 responded with major protests at the company’s headquarters and the Port terminal to get EGT to drop the suit and return to the bargaining table. Those protests escalated as the company made good on its threat to use non-union labor during the testing phase of the new $200 million facility.
Then, in a surprise announcement last week, EGT said it has signed an agreement with Federal Way-based General Construction Co., a subsidiary of Kiewit, to operate the terminal with union members from the Portland-based International Union of Operating Engineers Local 701. Mark Holliday, IUOE 701 Business Manager, sent out a statement saying, “Local 701′s members are trained to operate and maintain the EGT facility.”
Tacoma-based IUOE Local 612 President Ed Taylor told the (Longview) Daily News that his local would not claim work from other unions, such as the ILWU, but the EGT terminal is out of his jurisdiction.
On Sunday, ILWU hosted a barbecue for about 200 supporters from around Western Washington to discuss the latest developments in their efforts to retain their jobs and jurisdiction at the Port of Longview. ILWU 21 President Dan Coffman and Washington State Labor Council President Jeff Johnson both told the crowd that organized labor must come together to fight EGT.
“EGT, a Japanese multinational corporation that has received tax breaks from our state to build this grain elevator, has thumbed its nose at the members of ILWU Local 21 and is trying to pit workers against workers, local unions against local unions. This is unacceptable,” Johnson said (pictured at left at Sunday’s rally). “The work at the Port of Longview is longshore work and we need to come together as community and labor and say ‘no’ to EGT — ‘you will not disrespect labor in Longview or anywhere else in our state’.”
“Union longshore workers have made the Northwest one of the most productive grain exporting regions in the world,” Coffman said. “This new grain terminal stands to gain by playing by the same rules as the other grain operators that are making lots of money with productive union workers.”
EGT Development, a joint venture of Japan-based Itochu Corp, South Korea’s STX Pan Ocean and St. Louis-based Bunge North America, got a special tax exemption from the State of Washington to build the Longview terminal entitling them to a “remittance equal to one hundred percent of the amount of tax paid for qualifying construction, materials, service, and labor.” But the company built and is trying to operate its new facility on the cheap. Despite high unemployment in Cowlitz County and the availability of hundreds of skilled union building trades workers, the Northwest Labor Press reports that EGT imported the vast majority of its construction crews from low-wage communities out-of-state and did not pay area standard wages.
Stay tuned to The Stand for updates on this dispute and for information about what you can do to support the ILWU 21 members in their struggle to maintain standards and jurisdiction at the Port of Longview.