A Huge Struggle … And Then a Concessionary Contract: LONGVIEW: Snatching Defeat From The Jaws Of Victory

Excerpt from the Maritime Worker Monitor, Issue #11, March 14, 2012

Longview Local 21 longshore workers waged the biggest, boldest battle against union-busting in the U.S. in decades. It was a fight against EGT, the giant grain company, that refused to abide by the port agreement to hire ILWU longshoremen, a conflict for ILWU jurisdiction and a contract. We kept our jurisdiction but got shackled with the worst concessionary contract ever. No wonder the contract, negotiated by attorneys, hasn’t been voted on by the membership. For a month it’s been the best kept secret (by EGT and ILWU tops) on the West Coast waterfront, where scuttlebutt is usually free flowing. MWM just got a copy of the contract.

Let the Local 21 membership read it and decide. That’s their right. And it’s all longshore workers’ right to see it because it affects the whole Coast, not just for upcoming grain negotiations but the PCLCD in 2014. A Longshore Caucus must be called over this sellout.

What brought the arrogant CEO Larry Clarke of EGT to the table was a planned mass mobilization ready to stop the first grain ship at all cost at the new EGT terminal in the port of Longview, Washington in early February. Lines in this class war were drawn. On the workers’ side was the ILWU, organized labor and their allies in the Occupy movement organizing caravans to converge from the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle and Portland. On the other side of the barricades were EGT, the police, the Coast Guard, the scabs in Operating Engineers 701, the courts and the state.

Governor Chris Gregoire stepped in, fearful of a repeat of the September 8 action when longshore workers from Northwest ports marched on the scab EGT facility. They were exercising their First Amendment rights, protesting the police attack on ILWU International President McEllrath and hundreds of picketing longshoremen the previous day who had blocked a grain train. Cargo hooks were left hanging in the ports of Seattle, Portland and Tacoma while longshoremen took care of union business in the port of Longview.

That’s the power of the ILWU, to shut down global shipping! Just before the ship’s arrival when we were ready for action ILWU negotiators should’ve demanded the standard Northwest Grainhandlers’ Agreement.

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