By Carl Horowitz/National Legal and Policy Center
It wasn’t the first incidence of union intimidation in Longview, Washington this year. And it may not be the last. For four hours on the afternoon of September 7, an estimated 400 members of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 4 (Vancouver, Wash.) and Local 21 (Longview) blocked a shipment by a mile-long railroad train just outside its destination, a terminal at Port of Longview, Washington, leased by the Portland, Ore.-based EGT Development. The train passed through only after some 50 armed police officers dispersed protestors, triggering a melee and a blockade by a smaller group of protestors. All told, the standoff and fracas resulted in 19 arrests. Then, during pre-dawn hours the next day, union members retaliated by vandalizing railroad cars and dumping their contents onto the ground. These weren’t your average Longshoremen. Or maybe they were.
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) is a San Francisco-based labor organization founded in 1937 representing dockworkers and auxiliary employees at various West Coast ports. It is entirely separate from the International Longshoremen Association (ILA), which represents workers at ports along the East Coast, the Gulf of Mexico and the Great Lakes. But the ILWU does share one key trait with its ILA brethren: a penchant for imposing force on employers or employees who don’t do the union’s bidding. Rather than farm out its dirty work to the Mafia, however, which the ILA did routinely for decades until being thwarted by federal prosecutors during the last decade, the ILWU is the kind of union that prefers to take direct action. EGT is finding out just how direct.