Facing hefty fines for illegal picketing, union longshore leaders this week rejected a call from Occupy Oakland protesters to shut down West Coast ports Dec. 12 in support of the union's dispute with the owners of the new EGT grain terminal at the Port of Longview.
Occupy Oakland protesters announced Tuesday on their website that their general assembly had passed a resolution calling for a "mass mobilization" of various Occupy movements on the coast to shut down all commercial activity at all ports.
Robert McEllarth, president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, said the union appreciates the support but hasn't authorized the shutdown.
"Only ILWU members or their elected representatives can authorize job actions on behalf of the union, and any decisions made by groups outside of the union's democratic process do not hold water, regardless of the intent." McEllrath said in a written statement.
An email asking whether Occupy Oakland would continue the shutdown without ILWU support was not immediately returned.
Dan Coffman, president of ILWU's Longview Local 21, spoke at an Occupy Oakland rally. Without calling for a shutdown, Coffman thanked protesters for their support.
"You cannot believe what you people have done for my people, who have been on the picket line for six months now," Coffman said in video posted on YouTube.
The ILWU and Local 21 has been fighting for the past nine months to work inside the EGT grain terminal, which opened this fall. Union officials say EGT's contract with the Port of Longview requires the company to hire longshore union labor for 25 to 35 jobs. EGT instead hired unionized operating engineers and maintains it's not bound by contract to deal only with the ILWU.
A federal judge sided with the ILWU and sent the case to a labor arbitrator, who is expected to hear the case in December. In the meantime, the judge fined the ILWU about $315,000 for illegal picketing, including blocking incoming grain trains Sept. 7 and 21 and vandalism occuring during an early-morning raid on the terminal Sept. 8.
Among the dozens of Occupy protests that have risen nationwide, the Occupy Oakland movement has been one of the most aggressive, shutting down the Port of Oakland Nov. 2.
According to the Journal of Commerce, which tracks the marine industry, protesters would need to position dozens or even hundreds of people at port entrances to present a safety threat to dock workers who attempted to report to work.
An arbritrator appointed by the ILWU and waterfront employers ruled that protesters had created an unsafe work environment for longshoremen during their Port of Oakland protest, according to the Journal.