Cargo handling at the ports of Seattle and Tacoma resumed today following an arbitrator’s back-to-work order to members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.
The dock workers walked off their jobs Thursday to join fellow union members who were protesting the hiring of non-ILWU workers at a new grain export terminal in Longview, Wash.
The Pacific Maritime Association, which represents waterfront employers at West Coast ports, brought the case to arbitration Thursday. It charged that the ILWU protest in Longview against EGT, operator of the grain terminal, was an illegal work stoppage because EGT is not a PMA member.
“The ILWU did what they felt had to be done, but they have to find a different way to do this. We’re not involved in this battle,” said Jim McKenna, PMA president.
The arbitrator, who is appointed jointly by the ILWU and the PMA, agreed with employers that the ILWU was engaged in an illegal work stoppage. McKenna said he expected that the longshoremen would be back on their jobs in Seattle and Tacoma early Friday.
ILWU spokesman Craig Merrilees said officials of the PMA and ILWU were in constant communication and were attempting to work out their issues.
The ILWU protest in Longview followed months of tension between the union and EGT over the grain terminal’s decision to break off contract negotiations with the ILWU and contract with an operator that employs members of another union. The ILWU represents workers at all of the other grain terminals in the Pacific Northwest, as well as dock workers at container, bulk and breakbulk terminals at all West Coast ports.
The protests turned ugly early Thursday as ILWU members stormed the EGT facility and dumped grain from the train on to the ground.
Longshoremen in Longview generated widespread support in the labor community when ILWU President Bob McEllrath was detained, but not arrested, as he joined union members Wednesday in blocking a BNSF train carrying grain to the EGT terminal.
Harold Daggett, president of the International Longshoremen’s Association, which represents dock workers on the East and Gulf Coast, said the ILA “condemns this aggression against union workers seeking to protect the work that they have performed for over 80 years in the Port of Longview.”
Paddy Crumlin, president of the International Transport Workers’ Federation in London, said the 350,000 dockworker members of the ITF will be watching how EGT treats their American colleagues and “will be ready to take lawful solidarity action in support of the ILWU.”
EGT Chief Executive Officer Larry Clarke said the ILWU “has escalated its illegal campaign of violence and threats” even though a federal court judge in Tacoma had issued a temporary restraining order limiting the union to specific forms of protest. “The ILWU is not entitled to ignore the law,” Clarke said.