Union Settles Dispute At Port Of Longview, Wash.

Published January 23, 2012 11:27PM (EST)

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — A Longshore union and a grain terminal operator reached a tentative settlement Monday to end a fiery labor dispute at the Port of Longview that included blocked trains and repeated arrests.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union had been aggressively protesting the company, EGT, since last year, when EGT decided to use a contractor that staffed a new grain terminal with workers from a different union. The dispute became a rallying cry for Occupy protesters when they worked to shut down West Coast ports in December.

"The ILWU has eight decades of grain export experience in the Northwest, and we look forward to the opportunity to develop a positive working relationship with EGT," union President Robert McEllrath said in a written statement.

The ILWU and EGT did not immediately disclose details of their agreement.

Authorities accused union protesters last year of blocking trains, breaking into the grain terminal and causing damage to the facility. A federal judge who repeatedly warned the ILWU to cease the aggressive tactics eventually fined the union more than $300,000.

The ILWU has argued that it is entitled to the work at the Port of Longview based on the port's working agreement. EGT had argued that the port's working agreement did not apply to the company's lease and therefore did not compel the use of laborers from the ILWU.

"While the parties are still working to finalize certain conditions over the next several days, we are optimistic we can resolve the dispute and get on with the business of operating the facility," EGT CEO Larry Clarke said in a statement.

Clarke said the agreement was the product of a series of discussions convened by Gov. Chris Gregoire. Both sides praised the governor for leading discussion.

"Both parties should be commended for their willingness to work together and compromise," Gregoire said.

The Oregon-based Operating Engineers Local 701 has been doing the work at the $200 million grain terminal. It was unclear how the agreement would impact that union.


Mike Baker can be reached at .

By Salon Staff

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