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Long history of Longshore labor unrest on West Coast

Associated Press
Union workers block railroad tracks in Longview, Wash., Wednesday. Longshoremen blocked a train carrying grain as part of an escalating dispute about labor at the EGT grain terminal at the Port of Longview.

Port managers and workers up and down the west coast are closely watching the unrest in Longview, Wash. That’s where unionized longshoremen early Thursday morning stormed a port terminal and clashed with police.

If the unrest continues, this could be the first time west coast shipping is brought to a standstill in nearly 10 years.

It was 2002 when managers at 29 ports shut out workers after contract talks broke down.

In this latest action, longshoremen in Longview dumped grain and cut brake lines - a destructive climax to a month’s long labor dispute. Unauthorized sympathy work stoppages – called wildcat strikes – quickly broke out at other Washington ports, including Seattle and Tacoma.

David Olson is former chair of the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies at the University of Washington. He says solidarity among unionized waterfront workers runs deep.

“This is potentially a very large set of events if it cascades out of control and works its way up and down the west coast,” Olson said.

Olson notes violent longshoremen worker strikes date back to the 1930s when the international union was formed.

Copyright 2011 Northwest News Network

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.
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