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Washington State Longshoremen show us how to get it done; dump scab grain and stop trains!

Washington State Longshore Workers Dump Scab Grain to Protect Jobs
Before dawn today, 500 people broke down terminal gates, prevented security guards from interfering, and cut the train's brake lines.
What an inspiring action! Beats the hell out of waiting for Obama to come save us!

Longshore Workers Dump Scab Grain to Protect Jobs
Evan Rohar and Jane Slaughter
| September 8, 2011

The confrontation between West Coast longshore workers and an anti-union exporter exploded as pickets massed on railroad tracks by the hundreds yesterday to block grain shipments.

Police used clubs and pepper spray on protesters in Longview, Washington, as they made 19 arrests.

Early this morning a terminal there was invaded and hoppers holding about 10,000 tons of grain were opened onto railroad tracks.

Ports in Washington shut down completely Thursday as hundreds of longshore workers rushed to Longview, in the state's southwestern corner.

Bill Proctor, a Longshore Union (ILWU) retiree, was with fellow retirees and active workers on an early morning picket line at a Seattle grain terminal. He said, "If that facility is allowed to go non-ILWU, other facilities will be tempted to follow suit. And the grain terminals on the coast are all going into contract bargaining next month."

A foreman came out to politely assure the picketers that no one would do their work.

EGT Development, a consortium of three companies, wants to operate its new $200 million grain terminal in Longview using non-ILWU labor, despite a contract with the port requiring it to do so. When the ILWU protested, the company signed up with an Operating Engineers local.

Every other major grain terminal on the West Coast is operated by ILWU labor, and the union asserts that EGT's goal is to go non-union altogether, ending generations of good jobs.
Defied Restraining Order

In a series of protests since July, ILWU members and supporters sat down on train tracks and occupied the new terminal, resulting in 100 arrests. As picketing continued, no trains had attempted to bring in grain shipments since July. But last week a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order at the request of the National Labor Relations Board, which said ILWU pickets had harassed EGT workers.

Once the restraining order was in place, the BNSF railroad decided to try once more to ship grain. Justin Hirsch, a Seattle longshore worker, said grain terminals are major customers for the rail companies, who might move 500 trains a year through a terminal.

Pickets in Vancouver, Washington, 40 miles from Longview, delayed the BNSF train yesterday morning, until police cleared protesters away.

That afternoon, hundreds of port workers stood on railroad tracks at Longview to block the mile-long train. Nineteen were arrested and ILWU national president Bob McEllrath was detained briefly—as talk spread up the coast that police had broken McEllrath's arm. Riot police used clubs and pepper spray on some protesters.

Union officers eventually urged the blockaders to let the train through. But while it sat overnight inside the terminal gates, the word went out. Workers in Seattle left their jobs before the shift ended. Proctor reported that members of Local 19 gathered at 2 a.m. to head the two-and-a-half hours to Longview.

"Overnight people started flooding into Longview," said Hirsch. AP reported that before dawn, 500 people broke down terminal gates, prevented security guards from interfering, and cut the train's brake lines.

Noting that a train could hold 107 carloads, Hirsch said the mess on the tracks would be "time-consuming to clean up" and noted "somebody's not getting paid."

Proctor said, "This struggle is central to our future because grain work accounts for 20 percent of the financing of our pension and welfare funds."
Not the First Time

Longshore workers have a history of militant action to defend their jobs. In the 1980s a company called Pier Q tried to use non-union labor to move lumber through the small port of Vancouver, Washington. ILWU members organized a rally at the port, drawing longshore workers from as far away as Los Angeles. International President Jimmy Herman spoke to a crowd of 2,000 or 3,000 assembled in a warehouse, recalled Doug Rollins, now a clerk at the Port of Tacoma.

The crowd marched out and surrounded the terminal, and longshore workers with wire cutters ran toward the lumber bundles sitting on the pier.

"Every time you cut the bands off the lumber, the bundle would just explode and it would be like toothpicks shooting up in the air and coming down in a big pile," said Rollins. Ten minutes after the start of the action, millions of board feet of lumber covered the terminal.

Rollins reported that a policeman asked Herman who led the action. "I don't know, we don't know," Herman said. The international president was there, but the ranks were in charge, Rollins said. Since there were too many workers to arrest, the police stood by and watched as the thousands dispersed and went home.
Will It Restrain?

The restraining order, issued by a federal judge, lasts 10 days. Both sides are back in court today, when the judge will decide if the order should be made permanent.

ILWU spokesman Craig Merrilees said, "There is no formal action at either the local or International level, but large numbers of individuals appear to have taken action on their own." He stressed that no arrests were made at this morning's action and called the AP's report of security guards taken hostage "ridiculous."

"When corporations and the government turn their backs on working families," Merrilees said, "it shouldn't surprise anyone to see people step forward and try to fight back."

Ports in Tacoma and Seattle are closed today, though the international said no job action has been called. One worker said work would resume at 3 a.m. Friday—unless it doesn't.

Evan Rohar is a former casual worker at the Port of Tacoma. He begins work at Labor Notes on Monday.


Important 09.Sep.2011 07:34

Den Mark, Vancouver WA

This is the most important labor action in the Northwest & maybe in the entire country within recent memory. Everybody should do all that occurs to us to support it. That includes monitoring mainstream media & calling them out on their lies & hysteria, especially Portland tv stations. I've already called them out, but they must hear from many, not just a few, & they must be told to cover this struggle, & not ignore it except when action gets rowdy. Remember that the company involved, EGT, has regional headquarters in Portland, at One Main Place. Also that the union being used to break ILWU is Oregon-based. All of us can join ILWU's strong actions. All of us must.

When The Longshoremen Do It! 09.Sep.2011 09:20

Lloyd Hart dadapop@dadapop.com

Solidarity Fucking Now! My father in law was in the Longshoreman's Union in Brooklyn back in the thirties and founding member of the Workers Party of America. He told me of the bosses, the goons and the cops coordinating their efforts with tons of cash against the relatively poorly funded union pickets. Pitting unions against unions is nothing new. Ed spoke of those battles with great passion and said his grandchildren would have to fight those battles all over again after he saw free trade deals knock down workers pay and work conditions.

no arrests ? 09.Sep.2011 12:36


breaking and entering , property distruction , hostage taking ........ and no arrests were made according to msm !!!?
......... if these guys were anti war types they would be facing grand juries and prison time don't 'cha know ......
- aint amurika grand ! -

When Unions,,, 09.Sep.2011 13:01

Lloyd Hart dadapop@dadapop.com

adopted counter militancy they began to succeed in getting the living wage. When the Gays adopted counter militancy they began to be respected. When the peace movement's so-called leaders pulled the plug on traffic blocking non-violent civil disobedience at the beginning of the Iraq invasion saying they didn't want to be confrontational, they divided the movement that can't even agree on the time of day. No one respects the peace movement and their democratic party handlers. Now counter militancy is the only choice.

watcher 09.Sep.2011 13:02


the guy in the photo looks like he is under arrest to me. it did say the police used billy-clubs and pepper spray.

This rules 09.Sep.2011 14:50


I ain't really a red, but this is fucking awesome.
Non-hipsters using sabotage.

double standard security state 09.Sep.2011 17:23


...... my point , which was totally overlooked , was that in the eyes of the power structure anti war or environmental direct action is more worthy of harsh repression than the actions of macho longshoremen , - they must fit the the image of a good amurikan better than those filthy enviros don't 'cha know -
according to local news arrests were made only the day before when the protestors tried to block the train.

I don't get it 09.Sep.2011 18:25


Why do these people think they have a right to a job? Why do they think they have the right to destroy other peoples property if they don't get that job?

I also don't understand why some of the people commenting here are supporting these actions. The activist community has been taking jobs away from me and my family for years and we never destroyed your property.

two union groups fighting each other 09.Sep.2011 18:56


media is reporting that one union group is waring with another union group.

pipedream confession 09.Sep.2011 19:21


Wow, pipedream, there sure is a lot that you don't understand. Well, at least you admit it.

That's Ok Pipedream 09.Sep.2011 19:27

Lloyd Hart dadapop@dadapop.com

We don't need you for us to fight for a living wage.

Property destruction pales in comparison to SCAB violence: 09.Sep.2011 22:12


The ILWU has had to deal with more than their fair share of abuse in the past couple weeks.

This video shows footage of August 29, 2011:


This disturbing video shows an unidentified driver plowing a large vehicle through a nonviolent worker demonstration at the EGT grain facility at the Port of Longview, Washington. The car appears to speed up as it strikes two of the workers. One of the workers is pushed several feet as the car continues moving, and the driver doesn't slow down or render aid. The driver of the vehicle has not been arrested for assaulting the workers, for failing to render aid or for leaving the scene of an accident.

EGT is a joint venture of Bunge, STX Pan Ocean, and Itochu. EGT has contracted with General Construction Company, employer of Operating Engineers Local 701, to do the work that is the long-established jurisdiction of the men and women of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Local 21.

Check back at Longshore and Shipping News [www.longshoreshippingnews.com] for updates.

Solidarity forever 10.Sep.2011 19:45

Vera Duckworth

@ watcher,
'.. my point , which was totally overlooked , was that in the eyes of the power structure anti war or environmental direct action is more worthy of harsh repression than the actions of macho longshoremen'
I don't think it is necessary to juxtapose the repression of ILWU with repression of environmental activists. In fact I would say that the ILWU are environmental activists anyway. The ILWU have been in the forefront of struggles for human rights, civil rights and international solidarity.
And certainly, the ILWU and the whole labor movement have suffered terrible oppression for years, as many supporters of the IWW could tell you. Just a couple of things to highlight could be the Ludlow massacre, the killing of Joe Hill. The ILWU will never forget Bloody Thursday 1934 when their members were shot dead by the state.
We need to show solidarity with one another and find ways to unite. It is not necessary to say my oppression is worse tahn yours. To me, the point is to fight and defeat all oppression. Solidarity forever.

Solidarity with ILWU ! 11.Sep.2011 14:13

Lawrence J. Maushard

The ILWU always is in the vanguard of protecting their rights and those of America's working people.

They shut down the entire West Coast port facilities a few years ago to protest the war on Iraq

Their members fought and died establishing the union in the 30's. They battled company goons and city police
right here in Portland.

And they are standing up again. God bless them all!

Just look at this incredible photo of union members stopping a train of non-contract grain. Talk about working class heroes.

But I have to wonder at and feel shame for the rail employees, reportedly Burlington Northern Santa Fe, who eventually brought in the train
against the ILWU. Where is the rail union solidarity?! For shame, Burlington Northern Santa Fe!

According to this article in The Stand ( http://www.thestand.org/2011/09/heres-why-longshore-workers-are-so-angry/), "Some 400 ILWU members stood on the railroad tracks to block a train from delivering grain to the terminal for about four hours, but the train passed through after protesters were confronted by 50 police officers in riot gear. ILWU President Robert McEllrath, who attended the protest, was detained by police (shown in main photo for this article), escalating tensions between protesters and officers. In the confrontation that ensued, police beat protesters away with clubs and pepper spray.
ILWU Forever!
ILWU Forever!