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ILWU Local 21 not backing down in fight over EGT terminal work

ILWU Local 21 not backing down in fight over EGT terminal work

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Local union dock workers will continue to fight to work at the EGT Development grain terminal at the Port of Longview despite the company's weekend announcement that it's hiring a Federal Way union contractor, a longshore workers union spokeswoman said Monday.

"You can drop a subcontractor as easily as you can cancel a date. That's not a good union job. That's not the kind of job that Longview needs," said Jennifer Sargent, spokeswoman for San Francisco-based International Longshore and Warehouse Union.

EGT announced Sunday that it hired General Construction Co., a union contractor and subsidiary of Kiewit Infrastructure West Co., to employ about 25 to 35 workers to run the $200 million terminal. The remainder of the 50 total jobs would be administrative and support staff.

The company would likely hire union workers from the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 701, based out of Gladstone, Ore. Two messages left at Local 701's headquarters were not returned Monday. The operators' union Local 612, based out of Tacoma, was mistakenly identified Monday as the possible labor source for the terminal. Ed Taylor, Local 612 president, said the EGT terminal is out of his jurisdiction, and his local would not claim work from other unions, such as the ILWU. Local 701 has not said whether it would undercut the ILWU either.

EGT has sued the Port of Longview in federal court, arguing that it should not be bound by the port's contract with ILWU Local 21 to hire union labor for all longshore work on its 38-acre leased site. Port of Longview attorneys have asked a federal judge to order EGT to honor the contract and hire Local 21 labor.

On Monday, a federal judge granted the ILWU's motion to intervene in the suit.

Another unresolved issue is whether the terminal will get any grain to ship. Early Thursday morning, ILWU protesters blocked a mile-long Burlington Northern Santa Fe train from delivering grain to EGT, prompting the railroad to suspend grain deliveries for safety reasons during the labor dispute.

Gus Melonas, a BNSF spokesman, said Monday he is checking whether the railroad is lifting the stoppage now that EGT has hire General Construction.

Larry Clarke, EGT's corporate executive officer, Monday dismissed the notion that General Construction is a short-time contractor at the terminal.

"EGT and its employees are proud of being, and plan to be, a part of the Longview community for decades to come," Clarke said in a written statement.

EGT is owned by St. Louis Bunge North America, Japan-based Itochu Corp. and Korean shipper Pan Ocean STX. Its principal owner, Bunge, earned a $2.5 billion profit in 2010. EGT has cut off bargaining with ILWU Local 21 in Longview, saying it would cost $1 million more annually to run the terminal with ILWU labor. The ILWU has contracts to operate all other grain terminals on the West Coast.



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