The rank and file members of ILWU local 21 have agreed to a new contract with EGT at the Port of Longview, Wa, after months of brutality by local police (see here) and intransigence by EGT. (For more on the history of the struggle, see here).
According to the new contract, EGT will hire only workers dispatched from the Local 21 hall. However, workers must then vote on whether they wish to be represented by the ILWU, the Daily News Online wrote this week.
While this compromise doesn’t nix ILWU members outright, like EGT’s prior practice of hiring only non-ILWU members, it does leave open the possibility of hiring non-union workers willing to apply for work at the union hall. It prevents an automatic closed shop from existing at EGT, which would have otherwise been the case. And it also opens the door to an employer-led anti-union campaign on the jobsite and threats and intimidation to keep non-ILWU members from joining the union and to prevent a closed shop from emerging.
Ostensibly, this provision was designed to avoid violating federal labor law, which prohibits companies from designating a union before it even hires a work force. However, EGT had made earlier promises to hire Local 21 members and then reneged on the promise, precipitating the conflict in the first place. And if the company really wanted to hire ILWU members, then it would just hire them and they could call it a union after the fact. In reality, it is simply an attempt to weaken or stamp out the union influence, something ILWU members most likely felt confident they could prevent by requiring all new hires to come from their union hall.
The agreement also requires both sides to drop all unfair labor practice claims and other litigation. The ILWU would still be liable for damages from last summer's protests, which a federal judge has placed at more than $300,000. The union is appealing the amount.
One particularly curious and burdensome aspect of the contract requires the ILWU to ask all outside groups, including the Occupy movement, to refrain from picketing at EGT. However, this is not the ILWU’s responsibility. They never asked for OWS to picket or shut down ports and they have no control or jurisdiction over them anyway.