Longshore Union Risks Contempt Finding
by Richard Read
Two measly jobs.
For those, in an era of waning union influence, the West Coast longshore union has flexed its muscle. The result has crippled Northwest international commerce, scared ships away from Portland and knocked a hole in the recovering regional economy.
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union's bitter dispute with another union and the container terminal operator leaves Oregon's governor, U.S. senators, business leaders and other organized labor on the sidelines, issuing occasional indignant pronouncements. But that's not the whole story.
On Thursday, the bitter legal battle lands in U.S. District Court, where Judge Michael Simon will decide whether to hold the longshoremen in civil contempt. Even if he does, the union can win the war, judging by a recent case in Longview, Wash., where longshoremen shrugged off a federal contempt citation and got their way.
"Welcome to the waterfront," said Greg Zanavich, business development manager at Tidewater Barge Lines.
And yet, the longshoremen's fight is about far more than two jobs. The West Coast's 21,000 longshore union members are threatened by automation. They appear prepared to use every tool in their considerable arsenal to protect their turf and to acquire additional maintenance and repair jobs that can't be automated away.
. . .
learn more on topics covered in the film
see the video
read the script
learn the songs