Judge to ILWU: Don't Impede Terminal Operations

Judge to ILWU: Don't Impede Terminal Operations

A U.S. District Court judge in Tacoma on Thursday enjoined International Longshore and Warehouse Union picketers from engaging in violence and impeding rail or ship traffic at the new EGT grain terminal in Longview, Wash.

Larry Clarke, EGT’s chief executive officer, said the company plans to bring the grain export terminal fully online.

ILWU members clashed with police Thursday at the grain terminal after five months of tension over EGT discontinuing contract negotiations with ILWU. The protests came after EGT contracted with another company to supply labor that is represented by the International Union of Operating Engineers.

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Clarke said EGT is pleased with the ruling of Judge Ronald B. Leighton and appreciates the additional restrictions placed on the ILWU “given their recent criminal behavior.

“It’s a big victory for the ILWU,” said spokesman Craig Merrilees. EGT had asked for significant restrictions on ILWU picketers, but Judge Leighton narrowly defined the restrictions, Merrilees said.

ILWU picketers in July blocked a BNSF Railway train carrying grain, preventing it from entering the terminal for a test run of the facility. Picketing picked up in intensity this past week, and Judge Leighton granted a request from the National Labor Relations Board for a temporary restraining order against the union.

This Wednesday, ILWU members, led by President Bob McEllrath, blocked a second BNSF train. Police restrained, but did not arrest McEllrath. The union later allowed the train to enter the facility.

Early the next day ILWU workers stormed the facility and dumped corn out of the hopper cars. BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas said the demonstrators engaged in “intentional spillage” of the corn.
In the preliminary injunction granted on Thursday, Judge Leighton restrained the ILWU locals in Longview from “picket line violence, threat and property damage, mass picketing and blocking of ingress and egress at the facility of EGT.”

Judge Leighton also ordered the ILWU to appear in his courtroom at 10 a.m. on Sept. 15 to “show cause why they should not be held in civil contempt for violating the Court’s prior temporary restraining order.

The ILWU said EGT was granted much less than it requested. “Union members are pleased with the outcome even though they are smarting from false allegations of hostage-taking that were spread in the media throughout the day, an outright lie intended to discredit the union in its struggle for good jobs for the community,” said Lean Sundet, ILWU coast committeeman.

Judge Leighton is also handling a related legal case that is at the heart of the dispute. The Port of Longview and the ILWU charge that the terminal lease agreement signed by EGT stipulates that the company must use ILWU labor. EGT said the agreement references the union but does not require that the company hire ILWU dock workers.

-- Contact Bill Mongelluzzo at bmongelluzzo@joc.com. Follow him on Twitter @billmongelluzzo.