By Terri Kay
Published Jan 4, 2012 8:55 PM
Jan. 2 — International Longshore and Warehouse Union rank-and-file members and the Occupy movements in Longview, Wash.; Portland, Ore.; Seattle; Oakland, Calif.; Los Angeles and other West Coast cities are organizing to blockade a grain ship arriving in Longview sometime in January. This ship is supposed to be loaded by a non-ILWU crew with cargo from the new EGT export terminal. The date won’t be known until three to four days in advance.
There is a war going on against dockworkers and their families in Longview, Wash. Members of ILWU Local 21 have been arrested, beaten and their homes raided. They are fighting to protect their union jobs against EGT, which is trying to break the ILWU’s coastwide contract, established after the 1934 San Francisco general strike and West Coast Maritime strike.
EGT and its majority partner, Bunge NA, want to bust the ILWU, one of the most militant, progressive unions in the U.S. EGT has broken the union’s contract with the Port of Longview and is using scab labor at its export grain terminal. On Sept. 8, hundreds of angry Longshore workers charged through the gates, and EGT claims that grain was dumped from a 107-car train and a cyclone fence was torn down.
This struggle is occurring at a time when national union membership has dropped to a 70-year low of 11.9 percent, with 6.9 percent of private sector workers in unions. EGT’s actions are part of the ruling-class attack to drive us all to the bottom. Even with low union membership rates, national median weekly wages for union members are $917, compared to $717 for workers not in unions.
The 1% not only wants to take away that extra $200 from the remaining 14.7 million unionized workers, but wants to destroy all unions, especially the militant ILWU, to keep us from organizing to take back what is rightfully ours.
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EGT — a joint venture between U.S.-based Bunge NA, Japanese-based Itochu and Korean-based STX Pan Ocean — is part of the 1%. If EGT is successful in its attack on the ILWU in Longview, that will have a ripple effect on all port workers on the West Coast.
The ILWU is a democratic, bottom-up union with an activist rank and file. It has a strong history of support for community issues — standing up against apartheid South Africa, against the war in Iraq, and for the Wisconsin workers’ struggle against union busting. Bay Area ILWU Local 10 backed community protests after the police killing of Oscar Grant in 2009. They honored picket lines in Occupy Oakland’s Nov. 2 general strike and the Dec. 12 West Coast port shutdown.
Caravans and support actions are being organized up and down the West Coast, nationally and internationally, to greet the STX ship coming to be loaded with scab grain. ILWU Local 10 has pledged support for Local 21’s struggle against EGT and their union-busting drive and has funded a bus to Longview. The San Francisco Labor Council has endorsed the solidarity caravan.
Individuals and organizations are asked to support this critical working-class struggle by joining the caravan or other solidarity actions. Sign up at http://bailoutpeople.org to get involved. As soon as official word of the ship’s pending arrival is confirmed, supporters will be contacted by email and phone to let you know it’s time to mobilize in Longview. If you have a car and are able to take others, or if you would like to be a passenger in a rented bus or van, please indicate that on the website form.
Bunge NA, one of EGT’s parent companies, is headquartered in St. Louis, Mo., with offices in Washington, D.C. and White Plains, N.Y. If you are in these areas, ask your local Occupy group to organize solidarity actions in conjunction with the ship’s arrival in Longview. EGT also has facilities in Chester and Kintyre Flats, Mont. EGT is also building a high-capacity shuttle train loader in Carter, Mont. Bunge has locations all over the Midwest and South. To see if there is a location near you, go to http://www.bungenorthamerica.com/locations/usa/index.shtml.
For updates and further information, visit Occupy Oakland at www.Westcoastportshutdown.org; Defend ILWU at http://www.facebook.com/groups/256313837734192/; or Occupy Longview at www.facebook.com/OccupyLongview#!/OccupyLongview.