From West Coast Port Shutdown. Dec 19:
Call to action from Longview, WA
***EGT Grain Ship Arrival – Call to Action by Occupy Longview Washington***
Occupy Longview (Washington) is officially putting out a call to action to block the EGT grain ship expected to arrive mid-January.
There has already been discussion between occupies in various cities to caravan here to Longview, WA for the purpose of blocking this ship. We, Occupy Longview, are ready to move forward with planning and coordinating to make this action successful.
We are calling out to all occupies, from New York City down to Florida, all the way through to the West Coast, to join us in solidarity.
What we will need:
1) Numbers! We need to have a large turn-out. We need your bodies!
2) Media coordination/help
3) Finances/donated funds from larger occupies (for buses, housing early
Arrangements are already being planned to acquire a donated space or rent a building for the month of January for the purpose of planning, organizing and housing those who may arrive early and/or for those who may come from afar.
We ask that tens of thousands travel to Longview to join us and make this action the central action for January 2012. Let’s kick off 2012! Join us in Solidarity!
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From D12 Action in Longview Blog. Dec 14:
Neighboring occupiers help Longview on December 12
By Loretta Marie Long
At around 7:30 am, a line of ILWU Local 21 workers drove past Weyerhaeusers’ log yard stacked high with Washington timber and headed toward the port terminal for their 8 am shift, more than likely curious if they would be able to make it to work or not. After driving under the Lewis and Clark Bridge and around the corner, the scene longshoremen discovered at the port gate undoubtedly warmed their hearts: close to 125 community and out-of-town protesters, bundled in scarves, hats and hoodies against the bitter cold, danced and marched clockwise around the port terminal entry. The protesters’ voices bounced off the bridge foundation as they echoed chants magnified through a bullhorn.“Occupy. . . Shut it Down. . . Longview is a Union Town” followed by “Union rights are under attack. . . What do we do? . . . Stand up. . . Fight back.”
For the last six months, longshore workers had manned twenty-four hour picket tents outside Export Grain Terminal’s chain link fence, so they looked happy to see so many enthusiastic supporters. In response to the activists who were trying to shut down their port for the day, longshoremen honked and waved or quietly headed back to the union hall to wait for arbitrators to facilitate an agreement between the Port of Longview, ILWU, and The Pacific Maritime Association, ILWU’s employer for all of the shipping companies. At around 9 am, when a decision was made to shut down the Port of Longview because the protest had become “a health and safety hazard,” instead of going home, more than twenty port workers and their family members came back to watch the protest.
Even though longshore workers couldn’t represent their union in the protest, it was very clear occupiers were there partly to support ILWU workers in their fight against union-busting by EGT, a multi-national grain transport company that recently built a 200-million-dollar grain terminal on property leased to them by the Port of Longview. According to nwLaborPress and The Stand, in exchange for substandard wharfage and docking fees and substandard tax rates, EGT promised 200 jobs to local construction workers and 50 permanent jobs for longshore workers after the terminal was built. Instead of keeping their promises, however, project managers brought in out-of state and foreign workers to construct the terminal and paid laborers substandard wages. After the terminal was built, EGT representatives left negotiations with longshore workers and hired Operating Engineers Local 701 to do ILWU Local 21’s work.
Bill Proctor, a Longshore Union (ILWU) retiree, told Labor Notes in September “If that facility is allowed to go non-ILWU, other facilities will be tempted to follow suit. And the grain terminals on the coast are all going into contract bargaining next month.”
Kim Swart said that she showed up at the protest because her father, ILWU retiree Don Talbot, had worked on the docks driving crane since Swart was a young child. “I’m here trying to keep unions going, here to make sure we still have a middle class,” she said. “Being a longshoreman isn’t just a job—everyone’s family. We’re close-knit. We all jump in and fight for each other when we need to.” She said that unions are important to the entire community. “The mills and other businesses wouldn’t get the benefits they get if they didn’t have to keep up with the longshoremen’s wages and benefits.” She sat just to the side of the circling protesters holding a sign reading “Evil Global Takeover.”
Earlier that morning at 6:30 am, before the march started, a local activist and retired high-school history teacher stood on the frost-bitten sidewalk at the corner of Longview’s Industrial Way and Fifteenth Avenue. Larry Wagle whooped and yelled as he banged a three-foot wide metal sign reading “Help The Longshoremen” in large black letters. Wagle’s curly, thick white hair blew in the wind each time a semi truck drove by only a few feet away. He said he’s been participating in protests for working people since 1967 when he began standing up and organizing farm workers. These days, in Longview, Wagle can often be seen fighting corporate greed outside Walmart parking lots with huge signs and a bullhorn.
Bernadette O’Brien, a Longview resident who works with developmentally disabled adults in Columbia County, said she wasn’t at all fearful of attending the protest. “In a small town, cops are not the enemy. They’re part of the community. The only thing to be afraid of is frostbite!” She said she wasn’t a member of a union but she was attending the protest because funding for the most vulnerable citizens—the disabled, the elderly, those with mental health problems—is being severely cut. “I’m here because the rich guys won’t pay their fair share of taxes,” she said.
Zach, a young man wearing a bandana across his face, who didn’t want to reveal his last name, had been living in Portland’s Occupy encampment for several months before they were evicted. In the pre-dawn light, he was serving free steaming coffee to the protesters. “Did you read in the paper that during the Portland eviction they were serving free champagne? That was us: Rumorz coffee.” He said that living with Occupy Portland was the most exciting community-building experience he’d ever lived through. “But it’s been a lot more difficult since the eviction because cops trashed all of our camping gear. I’ve been having to couch surf.” He came home to Longview for the December 12 event, he said, because “Something was actually happening in Longview! I couldn’t miss it.”
“I’m here to show support for longshoremen who are fighting EGT’s union busting and port truckers who are trying to unionize” said Scott Gibson, President of Laborers 483, a union that represents Portland Oregon’s municipal employees. He’d been up since 4:30 am and taken the bus from a Vancouver Park and Ride.
Paul Nipper, one of the organizers for Longview’s D-12 action, had intentionally given local news media vague information hoping to prevent the Cowlitz County Sheriff from needlessly calling in extra riot police officers from Seattle. Occupy organizers feared an over-reaction by police because earlier this year, on September 7th , when nearly 400 ILWU members and supporters stood on railroad tracks trying to stop a train loaded with grain from reaching EGT’s terminal, 50 riot police were called in. According to David Groves, writing for The Stand, ILWU International President Robert McEllrath had been arrested, “escalating tensions between protesters and officers. In the confrontation that ensued, police beat protesters away with clubs and pepper spray. “
After watching news reports showing confrontations between Occupy protesters and police across the country, many protesters marching around the Port of Longview terminal entry voiced surprise at seeing only one police car nearby. A uniformed police officer waited patiently in the gravel lot across the street from the terminal entrance. Most occupiers from Portland had seen rows of riot police at their recent evictions so the trust shown to activists with minimal policing was heartening.
“I’m happy today not to see where my kids’ education money gets needlessly spent,” Nipper said. “I’m happy not to see the riot gear, the weapons.”
“I’ve been waiting for this for twenty years,” said Dan Smith, a retired fifth-grade teacher who has devoted his life to social activism.
Photos by Loretta Marie Long