Assessing the gains, losses of the EGT labor dispute

By Erik Olson, The Daily News

After a yearlong labor battle between the EGT grain terminal and the longshore union — a battle that resulted in hundreds of arrests, thousands of dollars in fines, millions more in lost revenue and sullied reputations — the scene in Gov. Chris Gregoire’s office Feb. 16 was almost surreal.

The EGT terminal manager, Jerry Gibson, sat smiling at a long, wooden table. Next to him was Dan Coffman, president of the longshore union. Flanking the men were about a dozen members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 21 and Port of Longview officials, relieved they could finally get back to work. All the former adversaries were shaking hands and celebrating an agreement that ended the local area’s most contentions labor dispute in 30 years.

When the governor opened secret negotiations with the parties late last fall, there was “absolutely no trust” between the two sides, she said. But in January, Gregoire announced she had brokered a settlement. Within weeks, negotiators cobbled together a labor contract, and ILWU workers loaded the terminal’s first ship Feb. 7.

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