Byron Jacobs, 34, a member of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 21, was killed at work June 28 at the Port of Longview in Washington state when a vessel line on the ship he was loading snapped, resulting in a fatal injury. A public meeting to commemorate Jacobs’ life will be held July 6 at 1 p.m. at the Cowlitz County Expo Center in Longview.
Other workers were injured when the cable snapped. One of them, Chinese chief mate Ping-Shan Li, also died.
Jacobs was a leader of the ILWU’s successful fight against the 2011-12 union-busting assault by EGT Development. His picture became well known when he was photographed being assaulted by cops and severely beaten during a peaceful union protest on the railroad tracks near EGT during the lockout. In true boss-cop frame-up style, he was later charged with assaulting the cops. The photo is reprinted in the Pathfinder book The Cuban Five: Who They Are, Why They Were Framed, Why They Should Be Free. He was convicted on a lesser charge and spent time in jail.
Dan Coffman, president of the ILWU local during the EGT fight, told the Militant Jacobs “was absolutely fearless for the union and his fellow union members.” Both Jacobs and Coffman always took time out during the fight to give interviews to the Militant so the facts about the union’s battle could be told in the face of the bosses’ lies and to help win broader support.
Jacobs regularly followed the Militant to read about union struggles, political developments and the work of the Socialist Workers Party. In 2012 he sent a statement in support of the SWP presidential slate of James Harris and Maura DeLuca to be read at a campaign rally here.
We exchanged emails about the protests after the 2012 killing of Trayvon Martin and in celebration of the Cuban Five’s release from prison in 2014. Jacobs told us to add his name to whatever protest letter we sent to Washington state officials when they threatened to keep the party’s presidential slate off the ballot in 2016. And he sent a message of congratulations when we won ballot status.
Jacobs is survived by his wife Megan and three young children.