The Bellingham Herald is running a story on the International Longshore and Warehouse Union [ILWU] protests and blockades at the Port of Longview, WA and on BNSF rail lines after labor disputes with EGT Development.
EGT—a multinational corporation—publicly promised Cowlitz County that “200 workers will be employed during construction [of a grain terminal] and the facility will employ 50 full-time workers when complete.” Such promises garnered EGT local support in Cowlitz County, additional land, as well as taxpayer subsidies for constructing the terminal.
While comments on message boards tend to focus on the angry protests of the ILWU, the history behind what is happening in Longview parallels concerns that citizens have expressed towards the proposed Gateway Pacific Coal Export Terminal and the promises made towards jobs and anticipated tax revenue.
Jobs – The ILWU are protesting because EGT did not keep their promise of local jobs. Rather, EGT imported the majority of its construction crews from out of state, despite Cowlitz County having hundreds of skilled union building trades workers with high unemployment rates.
Once the terminal was operational, EGT broke contract with ILWU and instead hired non-union workers to save money. This action was later followed by hiring out-of-state union members to run the terminal, which essentially pitted labor unions against each other, while still leaving Cowlitz County without their promised jobs.
Tax Revenue – EGT also received taxpayer subsidies to build the terminal, not to mention the decrease in anticipated tax revenue based on cheap labor practices.
I’ll close with a well-stated summary borrowed from the informative and revealing coverage on EGT and the ILWU protests put out by The Stand that articulates the difficulty of multinational corporations actually contributing to local economies:
To sum up: a taxpayer-subsidized international conglomerate, which is operating on public property, is suing the public so it can avoid paying the area’s standard wages and undercut its competitors that do. Then, it exacerbated tensions with the local labor community by importing union workers from another jurisdiction to cross the picket lines.
We’ll follow this post soon with more details regarding our concerns over SSA Marine’s promise of construction and longshoreman jobs, as well as information about why we anticipate that the permitting of GPT will bring an enormous taxpayer expense to our state that far exceeds any cost benefits we’ve heard in favor of the project.