Rally backs ILWU fight
against lockout in Wash.
United Grain presses ‘flexible’ work rules
March 8 rally for locked-out longshore workers outside United Grain office, Vancouver, Wash.
BY EDWIN FRUIT
VANCOUVER, Wash.—Several hundred longshore workers and their supporters gathered in Esther Short Park here March 8 to demand that United Grain Corp. end its lockout and ratify a contract with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.
ILWU Local 4 has been picketing around the clock in front of United Grain’s terminal since Feb. 27, when the company locked out union workers on the pretext of alleged equipment sabotage.
The local has some 200 members, 44 of whom are locked-out employees of United Grain, according to ILWU spokesperson Jennifer Sargent.
“On behalf of the 450,000 members of the AFL-CIO in Washington state, I call for an end to this illegal lockout,” said Jeff Johnson, president of the state federation.
“We won’t cross any picket lines and the Teamsters are with you all the way,” Tony Andrews, president of Teamsters Joint Council 37, told the crowd.
“The only way to beat United Grain is to stay united,” Robert McEllrath, international president of the ILWU, said at the rally. “We came up with an agreement with Cargill and will hand it to United Grain in an effort to get them to negotiate with us.”
An agreement with four companies covered by the Pacific Northwest Grain Handler’s Agreement expired Sept. 29. Only TEMCO LLC, a joint venture of Cargill and CHS Inc., has signed an agreement with the union.
“United Grain wants to see work rule changes,” United Grain spokesman Pat McCormick said in a March 11 phone interview, including allowing fewer employees to load ships, flexibility to bring workers from the elevator side to load ships, the right to use nonunion employees, no work stoppages during the length of the contract and permitting 12-hour shifts.
After participants marched a few blocks to United Grain’s corporate headquarters, McEllrath tried to speak with the company and present the Cargill contract as an example of what United Grain should sign.
“They wouldn’t meet with us because they said we had too many people here,” McEllrath said. The crowd responded with chants, “Let them in! ILWU!” After a second attempt, McEllrath told the crowd that a company representative had accepted a copy of the contract.
Participants then marched to Local 4 headquarters where they had a barbecue lunch.
A number of members of ILWU Local 21 in Longview attended the rally and picnic. In 2011-2012 Local 21 waged an eight-month battle that forced EGT Development to hire ILWU workers.
“It’s awesome to see so many people here,” Shelly Porter, a member of Local 21, told the Militant. “Local 4 was with us in our fight and we’re here for them.”
“Over 50 of our members came down for the rally. We want to make sure Local 4 knows we’ll be there for them, including doing picket duty if they want,” said Kyle Mackey, secretary-treasurer of Local 21.
Dennis Young flew from Juneau, Alaska, with another member of the ILWU Alaska Longshore Division. “This is an ongoing struggle to protect the jurisdiction of the ILWU and we think solidarity is important,” he said.
“We’re not staffing tugs or bringing barges to the United Grain terminal until this is settled,” a member of the Inlandboatmen’s Union, who asked that his name not be used, told the Militant. The union’s president, Alan Cote, spoke at the rally.
“The war on workers is heating up. We need to show solidarity to oppose the divide and conquer strategy of the bosses,” said Judith Lienhard, a member of the Oregon Nurses Association from Portland, Ore.
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