Occupy Portland, Occupy Oakland, and Occupy Longview aren’t giving up that easily. They’ve been gearing up for a fight and they’re not ready to call it off just yet – in spite of the tentative agreement that’s been reached between the union they’re supporting and the corporation they’ve been condemning. The long, drawn-out dispute between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and Export Grain Terminal appears to be coming to an end, on the heels of the inflammatory news that the US Coast Guard was to escort a ship owned by EGT from the mouth of the Columbia River to Longview, Washington, to be loaded with grain bound for Asian ports. Occupy and the union are outraged not only by US military intervention in the dispute but also by the fact that the loading would be done with non-ILWU workers. The Governor of Washington has stepped in to broker a temporary truce, satisfying those who were hoping to avert a confrontation in Longview when the ship calls at the EGT facility. The involvement of the Coast Guard wasn’t the first federal intervention in the dispute; last year the National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint against the ILWU, alleging that some of its protest tactics were illegal. The union ended up being fined $300,000 for labor violations. The fight between the ILWU and EGT centers around an agreement the union has with the Port of Longview that only ILWU workers would be hired at the port. EGT – a joint venture among Japan-based Itochu; St. Louis-based Bunge North America; and South Korean shipper STX Pan Ocean – signed a lease with the Port of Longview, but didn’t particularly want to hire ILWU workers. A dispute was born. EGT is said to have begun using non-union labor during construction and during the testing phase of its new $200 million facility. In July of 2011 it announced plans to hire an outside contractor that would employ members of Operating Engineers Local 701. The ILWU had been shut out. EGT filed a lawsuit contending that their contract permitted them to hire non-ILWU labor. Dockworkers responded, “Oh, hell, no.” They picketed. They protested at EGT headquarters. They tried to block a train heading for the terminal. They engaged in vandalism, including dumping grain from train cars, cutting brake lines, and smashing windows. There were arrests, along with intervention by the NLRB. Then came the news that the Coast Guard was going to assist EGT in getting its new ship to port. Other unions drafted resolutions protesting military intervention and supporting the ILWU. Occupy Wall Street started getting ready to block the port, vowing to do everything it could to keep the ship from being loaded. The news of the tentative deal hasn’t stopped Occupy’s mobilization efforts. Their plan is on until rank-and-file Longshore workers reach an agreement. Occupy calls Coast Guard intervention union-busting, pure and simple, saying that under the authority of the Department of Homeland Security the Coast Guard has created a security zone around the port to ensure the loading can progress unhindered. Union supporters insist that this is a crucial battle for all workers. They don’t want to see EGT succeed in this effort, because if it does, other employers will see a green light to bust unions.
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