In a victory for the ILWU, eight more members of Local 21 have been cleared of frame-up charges arising out of the union’s ongoing battle against EGT, which has been fighting to keep ILWU labor off its grain docks here. More than 200 members of the union and supporters have been arrested and scores charged with trespass, disorderly conduct and other false allegations for their participation in union protests against EGT last summer.
Meanwhile, a tentative agreement between EGT and the ILWU was announced Jan. 23 in statements by Gov. Christine Gregoire, EGT CEO Larry Clarke and ILWU International President Robert McEllrath. No details have been released. The fight continues, including plans for a protest against EGT.
EGT has refused to hire ILWU workers. Instead they hired members of Operating Engineers Union Local 701 through a subcontractor under inferior working conditions and wages, without a contract. If EGT prevails, it would be the first grain terminal on the West Coast run without ILWU labor in more than eight decades.
“We send this letter to express our support of your struggles with EGT in Longview,” Local 156 of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, covering Oregon and Southwest Washington, wrote to the ILWU Jan. 5. “This must be a line in the sand where all of Labor awakens to the attempt of the Employing class to erode the rights and working conditions around the world by continuously pitting one group against another.
“The members of Operating Engineers Local 701 have been the best friends and biggest supporters of Carpenters in Oregon and SW Washington,” the letter explains. “That relationship will continue as the members of Local 156 will support Local 701 in all of their struggles with management. With the benefit of this close relationship, we must be the ones to point out when one of us is choosing the wrong path…. [I]n this situation Local 701 is doing more long term harm for its members and all the Labor movement. An injury to one is an injury to all.”
Prosecutors agreed Jan. 18-19 to drop charges of malicious mischief and obstructing a train against seven ILWU Local 21 members, and to drop charges of trespass and obstructing a train against an eighth. Local 21 organizes the longshoremen on Longview’s docks. The charges stem from union protests at the EGT grain terminal on July 11 and Sept. 7.
The eight union members are Ronald R. Beam, Johnny H. Beam, Ryan E. Blaylock, Cary J. Brister, Darin Earl Norton, Philip Dean Schill, Daniel E. Wallace and ILWU Local 21 vice-president Jacob Whiteside.
Prosecutors also agreed not to pursue felony charges of burglary and sabotage against some unionists.
In plea bargain agreements, seven of the eight unionists pled guilty to lesser trespass charges. Most received fines of up to $250 and were sentenced to perform up to 25 hours of community service. In Norton’s case, he pled guilty to resisting arrest and received a suspended sentence and will also be required to perform community service.
Leal Sundet, ILWU Coast Committee spokesperson, issued a statement explaining, “The prosecuting attorney has gotten desperate because she has no real evidence for which to prosecute these demonstrators, and she resorted to threats of additional charges in order to wrestle guilty pleas from innocent workers.”
Sundet continued, “[T]he protestors were on public property, exercising their First Amendment rights.”
The dropping of charges against the eight comes on top of nine others who were cleared of similar frame-up charges in recent weeks.
The ILWU has been preparing a large, disciplined and peaceful protest against EGT’s union busting.
“We want to get out the message that everyone from children to grandparents are welcome to be part of the action to support the ILWU,” Kyle Mackey, the Secretary Treasurer of the Cowlitz-Wahkiakum Labor Council and a member of ILWU Local 21, told the Militant. “We want to squash any fear that may exist in the community or among people coming to Longview. There will be no actions of civil disobedience. No one will be put in harm’s way.”
After area police mobilized to attack and frame up longshoremen and their supporters last summer, the ILWU filed a federal suit charging the cops violated their civil rights. The trial has now been set for March 4, 2013, more than a year away. The lawsuit names Cowlitz County Sheriff Mark Nelson and Longview Police Chief Jim Duscha, as well as the county and city.
Send messages of support and donations to ILWU Local 21, 617 14th Ave., Longview, WA 98632. Make checks out to “EGT Fighting Fund.”
Edwin Fruit contributed to this article
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