"Working a ship with an onboard crane" by falvaradojr103 on flickr

"Working a ship with an onboard crane" by falvaradojr103 on flickr

????????Hey fellow FireDogs! Hope you’re having a good weekend. The story I want to tell you about takes place at the Port of Longview, in the State of Washington. It is a story I have been following for several days, and as per usual, one that the MSM is failing to cover in depth, or even cover much at all nationally. Funny how that works now days isn’t it? This ongoing “wildcat” union action has reached the boiling point in reaction to a confluence of several of our nation’s largest current problems. Those problems would be free trade agreements undermining the well being of our workforce (fellow FireDog wendydavis gave us an excellent post on the upcoming free trade agreements that are about to make things even worse). Then there is the on going union busting since 1981. Unregulated corporate greed. And the intrusion of transnational corporate influence in our society, or globalization implemented through a divide and conquer strategy. I believe that the Port of Longview is a nexus point and worthy of our attention and support.

Here is the thumbnail sketch FireDogs : A transnational consortium by the name of EGT negotiated a long term lease on a property with the municipal authorities at the Port of Longview in the State of Washington. They spent $200 million dollars constructing a new grain handling port/rail terminal facility. Under the terms of the lease granted to EGT by the Port of Longview, EGT was obligated to fill the newly created jobs by employing ILWU?? (the International Longshore and Warehouse Union) workers.

After shopping around and finding a community that was the……most……desperate for some good jobs, and using that fact as leverage to extract concessions on acquisition of the land, as well as tax concessions from the municipality while negotiating the lease; having gotten all that they wanted from the Port of Longview and its citizen taxpayers, EGT began reneging on their obligations. They did not hire the longshoremen as stipulated in the lease. This traitorous behaviour after being granted a special tax exemption in the Washington state tax laws. The taxpaying citizens of Washington had agreed to forego an amount of taxes that would be a  “remittance equal to one hundred percent of the amount of tax paid for qualifying construction, materials, service, and labor.” Here is a link to the applicable revised tax code laws of the State of  Washington.

This Portland-based international consortium, EGT, is owned by a domestic/international partnership comprised of St. Louis-based Bunge North America, Japan-based Itochu Corporation, and Korean shipper Pan Ocean STX.

From David Groves with The Stand in an article on Saturday September 10th :

“Bunge CEO Alberto Weisser was paid nearly $10 million in 2010. Bunge and his company have been accused of profiting from slave labor in Brazil.”

Do yourself a favor and follow the second link that David provides. The slave labor has to do with soy plantations in Brazil. Now why would any of that sentence grab the attention of a FireDog?

The first inkling of EGT’s duplicity and bad faith came as they began construction of the new port facility. Rather than bidding the job out to a local contractor who would use local out of work trade union members and thereby begin to return the favors this small community had already done for them, EGT instead brought in an out of state contractor who brought in non-union workers. Use of union workers for the construction of the port facility had not been stipulated in the lease negotiations, but right from the get go the imagined benefits that the citizens of Longview thought they might derive from cooperating with these corporations started to go up in smoke.

Next, EGT entered into negotiations with ILWU Local 21 for a contract to operate the new facility. According to a couple of  people I have spoken with on the West coast who are affilliated with the ILWU who would prefer not to be directly quoted given the present volatile nature of the situation and the “wildcat” actions undertaken to date, EGT never intended to honor the contract with the Port of Longview, and they never sat down and negotiated with the ILWU in good faith. All that the consortium did was to put on enough of a “dog and pony show” to be able to claim that they had in fact attempted to come to terms with the ILWU.

What EGT did then was hire a sub-contractor as a management company, and that 3rd party went to Gladstone, Oregon and struck a deal with Local 701 Operating Engineers for less than they would have had to pay the longshoremen. Now this is sad on a couple of very sick and twisted levels. First, you have union brothers crossing the picket lines of fellow union brothers. Secondly, EGT is able to trumpet its nobility and claim to have hired union workers, which technically they did, but the lease contract called for Local 21 ILWU to be given these jobs, and after all, these longshoremen live right there in the community, and……they……are…. LONGSHOREMEN for cripes sake! This is what they do for a living. But by far the most insidious thing about this situation, is that at a time in our nation’s history when union busting has been honed to an art form and “We the People” desperately need unions, arguably more than ever before; the corporations involved in this dispute have found yet another way to play the filthy game of divide and conquer. Involving two unions that have not only never previously done anything to harm one another, neither would have thought about doing it. But here we are, and you can bet that the corporations are loving it.

Here is Erik Olsen of The Daily News to tell us about the latest wildcat actions from earlier this week :

??
About 400 union longshoremen blocked a train for about four hours outside the new EGT grain terminal at the Port of Longview, but the train passed through Wednesday evening after the protesters were confronted by about 50 officers in riot gear.

Nineteen union protesters were arrested and cited for second-degree trespassing, a misdemeanor. Three were arrested when a scuffle broke out with police, and 16 more were arrested when they refused to leave the tracks when the train started up again, Cowlitz County Sheriff Mark Nelson said. Deputies say they are also investigating alleged vandalism to the train after it stopped. The names of the arrested were not immediately available Wednesday night

It’s totally unbelievable that our police force in our county is protecting a multi-national corporation. They’re the thugs, and our guys acted to protect our president,” Coffman said (Dan Coffman is president of the ILWU’s Longview-based Local 21).

ILWU members traveled from Portland, Vancouver and other cities to take part in the protest. Nelson said he doesn’t expect tensions to lessen.

Union dock workers also held up the train in downtown Vancouver for a few hours Wednesday morning.

Wednesday’s confrontations were the most serious in the ongoing labor dispute since seven longshore picketers were arrested outside the terminal July 25. Another was arrested Aug. 29.

The mile-long train from Minnesota was carrying thousands of tons of corn, EGT’s first grain shipment that will head to market. The $200 million terminal has been in the testing phase.

 

But wait, it gets better. Craig Merrilees, the press spokesman for ILWU’s national headquarters in San Fransisco, told me that EGT filed a law suit in Federal Court to get out of its contractual obligations to the ILWU, the Port of Longview and its citizens. You can find that court filing here, but unless you’re a subscriber all you can determine is that the law suit has been filed, and when, and what the docket number is, and who the assigned judge is; they won’t even let you read the summary without collecting money.

So the Longshoremen are up against it. They have engaged with transnational corporations that possess virtually unlimited resources, who by the way, believe they exist above the law. They have used American law firms to file injunctions obtaining restraining orders to prevent this union from protecting the jobs of its own members in their own home port.  Jobs which they were promised in a signed contract that should be enforceable in a democracy wherein the rule of law prevails. These corporations have gotten the  federal National Labor Relations Board, in yet another disgusting example of a “captured” (read corrupted) federal regulatory agency, to file an unfair labor practices complaint against the ILWU, alleging “aggressive” picketing. These Longshoremen find themselves being arrested by Police officers who are brother union members, beside whom they have stood in the past when those same Police officers needed support from brother unions.

All that is daunting enough no? Here is the part where it gets downright ugly FireDogs.

According to sources I developed this weekend, EGT has brought in a para-military style organization out of Baltimore, Maryland that goes by the name of the Special Response Corporation whose web page you can peruse here. Among other things that they claim to be good at is? “Counter-terrorism and threat mitigation systems”. Another interesting claim they make at the above cited website is that “Our personnel command rather than demand respect, their training, bearing and equipment make this possible”. What that means is that after you hire them, you can dress them however you wish, SRC security, or SRC military. Whatever you think might be appropriate for your situation.

The last piece of this puzzle is the “media” consulting firm that has been hired to formulate the lies that will be told aloud in public when the actual details of this particular “corporate person’s” behaviour begin to be well known. The propaganda in this case will have to be spun richly and thickly I think. The name of the firm is LUC media, and you can look at their website here.

While discussing some of my telephone interviews of ILWU members with my good friend Wendy Davis, she immediately began drawing parallels to the labor struggles of the turn of the century and then emailed me several excerpts, see if any of this sounds familiar within the context of today’s story FireDogs :

Antiunionism took two basic forms: repression and paternalism. Repressive tactics included firing and blacklisting union sympathizers (Marshall Field & Co. fired workers for being in the company of a union member); recruiting strikebreakers; deploying spies, thugs, and private security forces (including the infamous Chicago-basedPinkertons); locking out workers to break their union; vilifying unionists as “anarchistsor“communists”; and exacerbating ethnic conflicts to divide workers. Frequently, owners took advantage of recessions to cut wages, then broke unions by relying on the desperate unemployed to cross picket lines (as the meatpackers did in 1904, destroying a newly created union movement). To present a united front against workers, employers formed associations, such as the railroads’General Managers Association in the 1890s, and to exert business influence over local government, they formed political groups, such as the Citizens’ Association of Chicago in 1874.

Above excerpt can be found here.

Here is another fact that I came across that I think you FireDogs will find interesting. “Our Very Own Benevolent Billionaire”, “The Oracle of Omaha” makes an appearance in this story. Yes, none other than Warren Buffet hisowndamnself. Reporter Erik Olsen of The Daily News makes an aside near the end of his article cited above : “The Vancouver protesters were monitored by several Burlington Northern Santa Fe police vehicles, including a police dog.”  The connection of course is that Berkshire Hathaway owns the BNSF Railroad. I cannot say that I was previously aware that there was even such a thing as a BNSF Police vehicle. I am not sure what I would wish to say about that last, except that I think you should be aware of it.

These Longshoremen, the proud members of ILWU Local 21 are on the frontlines FireDogs.  They are fighting for our America. They deserve our respect, and our gratitude, and our support.

With all their faults, trade-unions have done more for humanity than any other organization of men that ever existed. They have done more for decency, for honesty, for education, for the betterment of the race, for the developing of character in man, than any other association of men.

~CLARENCE DARROW~

 

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Illegitimi non Carborundum

Stay Strong and take care of one another.

Robert Alexander Dumas

Robert Alexander Dumas

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