Counterpunch, January 10, 2012
The Looming Showdown in Longview
The long-simmering dispute between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the international consortium EGT Development transpiring in Longview, Washington looks to be coming to a head.
In a January 3 letter addressed to his members, ILWU International President Robert McEllrath disclosed that EGT will soon attempt to commence operations at its new $200 million grain terminal located at the Port of Longview. As McEllrath wrote, “We believe that at some point this month a vessel will call at the EGT facility in Longview, Washington…Prepare to take action when the EGT vessel arrives.”
The Struggle and Its Stakes
At the heart of the Longview dispute has been EGT’s refusal to hire longshoremen from ILWU Local 21 to work its grain terminal at the Port of Longview. The publicly owned port—as with all West Coast public port docks—has been worked exclusively by the ILWU for decades.
Dismissing this hard-won jurisdiction, EGT chose to break off negotiations with the ILWU last year and contract with a third party employing labor from International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 701. The ILWU argues that this is in direct violation of EGT’s lease agreement with the Port of Longview, which explicitly stipulates all port work is to indeed be done by the ILWU.
For its part, IUOE Local 701 has been widely condemned within the Northwest labor community, with many accusing the local of conspiring with EGT to break the ILWU. Both the Washington and Oregon state AFL-CIO bodies, along with numerous other unions, have already passed resolutions condemning Local 701. The July resolution passed by the Oregon AFL-CIO described 701’s actions at the EGT terminal as “scab labor.”
The national AFL-CIO, on the other hand, has remained conspicuously muted on the dispute. No mention of the ILWU’s struggle in Longview can be found on the federation’s website or blog. In fact, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has referred to the entire matter as a mere “jurisdictional dispute.” Continue reading