16 March 2012
Protest State Vendetta Against Longview ILWU and Its Allies!
In our article “Lessons of the Battle of Longview” (WV No. 996, 17 February), we addressed the fight by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 21 against an all-out union-busting attack by the giant multinational grain conglomerate EGT in Longview, Washington. Backed by forces ranging from the local police to the federal courts and the armed might of the U.S. Coast Guard, EGT’s aim was to drive ILWU Local 21 out of jobs at the port the union has worked for 80 years. The union held the line against this union-busting offensive. But the struggle is far from over. ILWU members and their supporters continue to be subjected to a relentless campaign of persecution by the courts, cops and Cowlitz County District Attorney’s office. The union itself is facing more than $300,000 in fines leveled at the behest of the National Labor Relations Board.
In the course of their battle against EGT, ILWU members and their allies engaged in the kind of militant labor struggle not seen in this country in years. In retaliation, leaders and members of ILWU Local 21 were met by a campaign of police violence, detentions and surveillance. More than 200 arrests were made, including several on felony counts. These workers are being dragged through the courts with many being pressured to plead guilty to misdemeanors or face more serious felony charges.
Even now, after a settlement has been reached between the ILWU and EGT, Cowlitz County prosecutor Susan Baur, working hand in glove with the county sheriff’s department and local police, continues to escalate the anti-union vendetta. New charges, including felonies, are being manufactured over events that occurred many months ago. This vindictive prosecution is a shot at all of labor, aimed at creating a chilling effect on trade unionists who were inspired by the power ILWU members brought to bear during their fight against EGT’s union-busting in Longview.
These longshoremen and their supporters fought with courage and determination. Now we must fight for them! The Partisan Defense Committee, a non-sectarian, class-struggle legal and social defense organization associated with the Spartacist League, has written a protest letter to the Cowlitz County prosecutor demanding that all charges be dropped immediately. We urge unions, both nationally and internationally, as well as all opponents of the bosses’ war against the unions, to do the same.
Letters demanding that all charges be dropped and fines and other penalties rescinded should be sent to:
Copies should be sent to:
Governor Christine Gregoire
Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna
Additional copies should be sent to:
President Dan Coffman,
Executive Board and
Members of ILWU Local 21
President Robert McEllrath, IEB
and Coast Committeemen
Partisan Defense Committee
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(reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 998, 16 March 2012)
Workers Vanguard is the newspaper of the Spartacist League with which the Partisan Defense Committee is affiliated.