ILWU protestors clash with police near a controversial grain terminal in Longview, Wash.
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union effectively shut down the ports of Seattle and Tacoma on Thursday as workers joined fellow union members at the Port of Longview to protest the hiring of non-ILWU labor at a new grain terminal
Port of Seattle spokesman Peter McGraw said the ILWU workers did not show up for work Thursday morning. IWLU spokesman Craig Merrilees confirmed that longshoremen from Seattle and Tacoma went to Longview to express solidarity with ILWU workers there.
The Associated Press reported that longshoremen in Longview overpowered security guards at the terminal, damaged rail cars and dumped grain on the ground. International Longshoremen's Association spokesman Jim McNamara said the East Coat union supports its West Coast brethren's actions.
The ILWU in Longview has been protesting for months the hiring of a non-ILWU contractor to staff the newly-built EGT grain export terminal. The Port of Longview and the ILWU have filed suit in federal court in Tacoma challenging the EGT actions. The port authority and the union charge that the ILWU contractually has the right to represent dock workers at the port.
Jennifer Sargent, ILWU spokeswoman in the Pacific Northwest, said “we have no reports of any vandalism or physical confrontations with any EGT employees.”
Longshoremen in July blocked a BNSF Railway train from calling at the EGT terminal. The latest picketing on Wednesday involved ILWU President Bob McEllrath, who stood with workers and their families on the tracks to block another BNSF train.
The ILWU reported that McEllrath was detained by police but was not arrested.
"We have received information that the train was vandalized overnight while it was in EGT custody apparently as part of some violent activity at the EGT site," said BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas. "We are attempting to meet our common carrier obligations safely and without incident or injury to anyone.”
A federal court judge last week issued a temporary restraining order against ILWU picketing at the Longview terminal. In a statement Thursday, EGT CEO Larry Clarke said the ILWU protestors were acting “in blatant defiance of the law as spelled out by a federal court judge.”