Seven arrested during union protest at EGT port terminal

Seven arrested during union protest at EGT port terminal

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Law enforcement officials are concerned that union dockworkers are becoming more aggressive after seven were arrested and another was injured Monday morning at the EGT grain terminal at the Port of Longview.

"The protesters today are substantially more aggressive in both threats and actions. They have turned their aggression towards the deputies and officers on the scene, repeatedly shouting and calling the officers profane names, and many of them refusing the officers' requests," Chief Criminal Deputy Charlie Rosenzweig said in a news release issued Monday.

The longshore union blamed EGT for escalating the dispute. One member said "we're not looking for trouble."

Protester Adam R. Woon, 24, of Longview, was arrested for felony harassment after he threatened to kill a person who was driving into the EGT site. It was the first felony arrest since major protests started at the site July 11.

Woon was held without bail in the Cowlitz County Jail, according to the sheriff's office.

Members of Longview-based Local 21 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union are trying to force EGT to use Local 21 labor to operate its new $200 million export terminal, saying they're entitled to the work through a contract with the Port of Longview and by long-standing union jurisdiction.

The company has signed a five-year agreement with Federal Way-based General Construction Co., a subsidiary of Kiewit Infrastructure West Co., to staff the terminal with Gladstone, Ore.-based International Union of Operating Engineers Local 701.

EGT, which is testing the facility in hopes of getting it ready to handle fall grain shipments, shut down operations Friday after ILWU pickets blocked employees from entering the site. The company resumed work Monday morning after police escorted about 15 to 20 EGT employees into the terminal, Rosenzweig said.

The terminal has not received grain shipments since Burlington Northern Santa Fe shut down deliveries last week after union protesters blocked a train. BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas said Monday that the suspension is continuing for safety reasons.

Local 21 President Dan Coffman downplayed the seriousness of Monday's arrests, saying that union members were arrested for "trivial" offenses such as blocking traffic while helping other members who had fallen. Other union members said they were surprised by the large police presence Monday morning, which included sheriff's deputies, officers from the Kelso and Longview police departments and troopers from the Washington State Patrol.

"It was the union that brought about a peaceful resolution this morning. We're not looking for trouble. The other side would like to paint us as troublemakers, but it's EGT that needs to get in line with what they said they would do, and hire longshoremen," Local 21 union member Kelly Muller said in a written statement.

Larry Clarke, EGT's corporate executive officer, praised the work of law enforcement to help EGT operate the terminal.

"The escalating violence and intimidation by the ILWU against EGT and its contractors, including workers from the Operating Engineers, cannot be tolerated. These actions are extremely dangerous and harmful to the Longview community and our local economy," he said in a written statement.

Contract talks between the ILWU and EGT broke down about four months ago. The union, which operates every other grain terminal on the West Coast, says its contract with the Port of Longview requires EGT to hire Local 21 labor for the terminal.

EGT attorneys sued the port in federal court in January, claiming the company is not bound by the port's agreement with the ILWU. A trial is scheduled for next year.

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Seven longshore union protesters were arrested Monday morning outside the EGT grain terminal.

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