Occupy and ILWU Declare Victory as Contract Finalized with EGT

cartoon by Kenneth Huey ©2012

by Cate Patricolo

After tense months of speculation, Occupy organizers finally declare victory, as the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Export Grain Terminal (EGT) operating at Local Port 21 in Longview, WA have finalized a collective bargaining contract. The contract was signed by representatives of both parties on February 10, 2012, and signifies the official end to the longshore workers’ strike. On December 12, 2011, Occupy Portland activists stood in solidarity with the workers by successfully blocking grain shipments to Port 5 on the Columbia River. The shipments in question were intended to be received and unloaded by scab workers, and would have continued to undermine the efforts of the ILWU to reach a bargain on behalf of the longshore union members.

The ILWU was elected by majority vote on January 31 to represent over 50,000 longshore workers in Oregon, Washington, California, Alaska, Hawaii, and British Columbia. Ground was made by the ILWU when the EGT Local 21 voluntarily agreed to recognise ILWU as the official collective bargaining representative for the workers on February 2. The new contract will cover both maintenance and production work at the $200 million Local 21 facility in Longview, Washington as well as all other EGT facilities on the Pacific. It also covers all workers in all states and facilities, both on- and off-shore, and promotes safe working conditions, worker welfare, job security, and fair wages.

EGT, LLC is a joint venture between three Agribusiness conglomerates worth a net of at least $2 billion: The North American arm of Bunge Limited; the US subsidiary of the Japanese trading corporation ITOCHU International, Inc.; and the South Korean bulk carrier corporation STX Pan Ocean. The strike by the workers against the EGT began in July along the West Coast, and was focused on poor working conditions, forced overtime, and a pension fund that was only at 64%. The EGT continued to run a scab operation at the ports after the strike took effect, which reportedly violated a 75-year agreement with the ILWU.

Workers gained traction on September 7, when union supporters successfully blocked grain shipments at Local 4 in Vancouver, Washington, followed by a successful block at Local 21. Over 30,000 Occupy Oakland activists led the Occupy movement into solidarity with the longshore workers by shutting down Local 6 on November 2. Other ports all along the West Coast were shut down as Occupy protesters joined the workers’ cause, but Local 21 remained as a scab operation and was considered the final hurdle for a settlement between ILWU and the EGT. A day after the official February 10 agreement, longshore workers identified the Occupy Movement as crucial to their ability to reach a final settlement with the EGT and remain in their jobs.

“This is a victory for Occupy in their involvement in forcing negotiations. Make no mistake – the solidarity and organization between the Occupy Movement and the Longshoremen won this contract,” said Jack Mulcahy, ILWU officer with Local 8. “The mobilization of the Occupy Movement across the country, particularly in Oakland, Portland, Seattle, and Longview were a critical element in bringing EGT to the bargaining table and forcing a settlement with ILWU local 21.”

Monday, February 13, marked the first unloading of grain shipments by longshore workers at the docks of Local 21 since the beginning of the strike, and scab workers were officially sent home. Both parties appear to be pleased with the results of the bargaining efforts. In a press release, ILWU Local 21 President Dan Coffman said, “People are happy to see we can all move forward now and do what we’re here to do, which is work hard and support our community.” ILWU President Robert McEllrath was just as optimistic: “The men and women of the ILWU have crafted hundreds of collective bargaining agreements over the past several decades that have made many companies profitable while also providing family wage jobs for communities like Longview.” EGT CEO Larry Clarke said in his press release, “This is a positive development for EGT, the ILWU and the Longview community… We appreciate the efforts of Governor Gregoire and ILWU President McEllrath, who helped make this possible so our operations can expand economic benefits to the local community.”

The agreement reached has a five-year duration, after which it may be open to re-negotiation. The extent of possible financial damage to EGT caused by the strike is not immediately known.

  5 comments for “Occupy and ILWU Declare Victory as Contract Finalized with EGT

  1. lester
    February 14, 2012 at 11:47 PM

    Sorry Kate, but this article is yellow journalism. The Occupier editorial staff has the contract that was signed between ILWU and EGT, the lease agreement between egt and port of longview, etc, yet none of that critical information made it into this article.

    You sacrificed your journalistic integrity to make an important story a propaganda piece.

  2. bill ritchey
    February 15, 2012 at 9:08 AM

    I don’t understand what “critical information” has been omitted here, 5 year contract was stated, working conditions and contract between egt and port have all been published many times before both here and in the corporate media and are standard items. if there is something that you know then you should state what it is rather than alluding to it’s existence , which is also a tactic in yellow journalism. the fact that occupy did bring about this contract, did force egt to hire people in longview to work in their port is very newsworthy and is not being stated by the yellow journalism of the corporate media.

    • lester
      February 15, 2012 at 1:22 PM

      “I don’t understand what “critical information” has been omitted here”

      That’s exactly he reason for my complaint. The Port of Longview struck out the provision in EGT’s lease agreement requiring them to hire union labor, much less ILWU.EGT just volunteered to hire from an ILWU union hall for a few years. All the ILWU won was a reprieve, at which time EGT can get rid of them and ILWU will have no recourse. That also brings up the issue of every other employer in Longview- allowing EGT out of that section of their lease agreement just provides ammunition to all the other employers to their attempts to ditch union labor. Plus, EGT isn’t hiring employees, they are obtaining employees from the ILWU union hall as needed. That makes it easy for EGT to just shut the plant down and eliminate all employees, at which time any contract they have for labor is null and void.

      Also, the terms that ILWU agreed to specifically state that they are required to inform Occupy of the resolution and prevent us from engaging in any labor actions at the EGT facility. Here in this article, we have just that- an article telling us that we won so that we won’t engage in any actions over this bad deal. When the actual reasons for articles like this is because it was a demand that EGT included in the agreement.

  3. Cate
    February 15, 2012 at 1:57 PM


    I agree to some extent. At risk of upset, the original piece I wrote was more factual and less overt in glorifying the role of Occupy. However, the Editorial powers that be made some changes. As far as a personal attack on my journalistic integrity in a public forum, that is both inappropriate and un-necessary. There have been many discussions within the staff about how this is a “propagandist” paper; propaganda usually has a negative connotation in many people’s minds, but that is not the sense in which the word is used here.


    • lester
      February 15, 2012 at 3:39 PM

      Cate, I understand the perspective on propaganda and I agree. “Public relations” is just the politically correct term that was used to replace it, but the meaning stays the same. Regardless of the term used, the best propaganda is the truth. Just because we’re propagandists doesn’t mean that we’ve accepted the job of lying to the reader.

      I’ve read a lot of articles that you’ve written both here and elsewhere, which is why I was particularly disappointed in this. From what I’ve read, you’re a better journalist than this. In fact, you showed yourself to be a better journalist in your response to my comment.

      I can see why persons would want to frame this as a victory, and I can see how that could be, in some instances, the best way that the story could be written.But that could have been done while still revealing the details of the agreement.

      About making this public, our journalistic integrity has been compromised publicly and should be corrected publicly.

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