A respected Washington labor blog called The Stand has published this excellent article. Below are some excepts; read it in its entirety at The Stand.
LONGVIEW (Sept. 8th) — Violence erupted today in a major labor dispute that has simmered for months at the Port of Longview, leading to work shutdowns at ports up and down the Washington coast. Why are members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) — and their supporters in Washington and Oregon — so upset about a grain terminal that employs just 50 workers?
EGT Development is a joint venture of Japan-based Itochu Corp, South Korea’s STX Pan Ocean and St. Louis-based Bunge North America. Like so many corporations that promise good jobs to get what they want, EGT got a special state tax exemption and a sweetheart lease deal from the Port of Longview to build a $200 million grain terminal there. The government even seized adjacent land for the project. But as soon as the deal’s ink was dry and the ceremonial first shovel of dirt was overturned two years ago, EGT began running the project on the cheap.
Despite high unemployment in Cowlitz County and the availability of hundreds of skilled union building trades workers, EGT imported the vast majority of its construction crews from low-wage communities out-of-state and did not pay area standard wages, leading to howls from the local labor community.
After the terminal was built, EGT decided to ignore the Port of Longview’s contract with ILWU Local 21 to hire union labor on its leased site. Instead, the multinational conglomerate hired non-union workers — claiming it would save the company $1 million a year (a figure the company later admitted had been plucked from the sky) — and EGT sued the Port, arguing it was not bound by the contract with the ILWU.
To sum up: a taxpayer-subsidized international conglomerate, which is operating on public property, is suing the public so it can avoid paying the area’s standard wages and undercut its competitors that do. Then, it exacerbated tensions with the local labor community by importing union workers from another jurisdiction to cross the picket lines.