EGT, a multinational grain exporter, agreed to recognize Local 21 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union as the bargaining representative for workers at its new grain terminal in Longview, Washington and agreed to use Local 21′s dispatch hall to staff the terminal. Workers at the terminal on January 30 and 31 signed union authorization cards; the next day, an arbitrator verified their authenticity, and the company and union agreed to negotiate a contract that will finalize the deal.
“EGT’s recognition of ILWU Local 21 as the bargaining representative for workers at its facility in Longview is an important step forward, and we are committed to developing a long-term relationship with EGT – one that benefits the community, establishes good local union jobs for years to come, and contributes to the stability of the Pacific Northwest grain export industry,” said Robert McEllrath, ILWU international president.
EGT’s voluntary agreement ends a bitter conflict in which longshore workers fought hard to win their right to work at the new grain terminal; EGT vigorously resisted their efforts.
At the beginning of January, the ILWU and Occupy Longview initiated separate actions to blockade a grain ship headed for the EGT terminal. The ship was expected to arrive later in January or early February, and the Coast Guard said that it would escort the ship to the terminal.
But the confrontation never materialized. Washington Governor Christine Gregoire called the two sides together to resolve the dispute, and the two sides reached an agreement that led to EGT recognizing the ILWU.
Hundreds of ILWU members and supporters have been arrested in actions taken by the longshore workers efforts to protect their jobs. Demonstrators at the terminal blocked trains loaded with grain, conducted mass picketing of the terminal, and resisted police efforts to suppress their First Amendment free speech rights.
Last Wednesday a jury found four women not guilty of blocking a train at the EGT grain terminal last September. So far six people have been acquitted of charges related to their arrests during the EGT fight, 100 percent of those who have come to trial. Dozens more have had charges dropped because of lack of evidence.
“Three juries have looked at the evidence, and all three juries have found ILWU workers and supporters not guilty of what the prosecutors have accused them of doing,” said Local 21 President Dan Coffman. ”We hope that we can move forward and not waste any more taxpayer funds on prosecutions of people who were willing to put their bodies on the line for good jobs and our community. The state should now promote reconciliation and help the community put this dispute behind it.”