Judge Holds Wash. Union in Contempt
by Associated Press
Judge still considering size of Fine
TACOMA, Wash. -- A federal judge found a union in contempt of court Thursday, a week after police said hundreds of its members raided a grain terminal in southwestern Washington, smashed windows and menaced security guards.
U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton said he wants the operator of the Longview grain terminal, EGT, to provide him an accounting of the damage for purposes of gauging how much he should fine the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Locals 4 and 21.
Leighton had issued a temporary restraining order before last week's actions, demanding that the union not block entrances to the grain terminal. But the union's members, upset that EGT has hired a contractor staffed with workers from a different union, repeatedly blocked a train carrying a grain shipment there, then stormed the terminal and dumped some of the grain.
Eight people had been arrested by Thursday evening -- seven for investigation of criminal trespassing, and one for investigation of assault and other charges.
The judge mused Thursday about whether it would helpful to set out a schedule of fines should the union violate his orders again, but decided against it.
"It's like asking the parent of a juvenile delinquent to predict your client's behavior," he told attorneys.
The Longshore union has an agreement with the Port of Longview entitling it to work at the port, but EGT claims it is not a party to that agreement and need not follow it.
Leal Sundet, of the union's coast Longshore division, said the company hasn't been held to account for hurting the community with its employment decisions.
"If union members stand on a train track exercising their First Amendment rights, it is a crime," Sundet said. "But, if a major corporation plunders an entire community, it matters not."
Leighton's decision to hold the union in contempt followed lengthy testimony about what happened during the protests and the raid. Security guard Charlie Cadwell, employed by Columbia Security for patrols at the Longview grain terminal for the past two months, told the judge of the harrowing experience: Every protester he saw that night was carrying a weapon -- baseball bats, lead pipes, garden tools.
"I didn't see a longshoreman who didn't have something in his hands," he said.
He was was pulled out of his car by one longshoreman, and another man swung a metal pipe at him, he said.
"I told him, 'You have 50 cameras on you and law enforcement is on its way,'" Cadwell said. "He said, '(expletive) you. We're not here for you, we're here for the train.'"
In the meantime, someone drove off with his car and eventually ran it into a ditch. Cadwell said about 40 to 50 people were throwing rocks at him, and that he was hit between his eyes and in his knee.
When asked how he knew the men who attacked him were Longshore workers, he said he recognized them from previous encounters. Before working at the grain terminal, he worked at Weyerhauser for five years, where he also worked with longshoremen.
Another employee of Columbia Security, Kenneth Sharpe, said he was also threatened with a baseball bat. He was inside a guard shack when a glass window was broken.
A police officer and other security guards testified about other verbal threats, and one man said he heard what sounded like air hoses being cut on a train.
Federal labor authorities suggested a fine of $25,000 for any and each future violation of the restraining order.
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