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For months EGT, a wholly owned subsidiary of multinational corporation Bunge, Inc, kept ILWU Local 21 members from working the Port of Longview, WA. They had been replaced by other grain elevator operators in violation -- as claimed by the ILWU -- of a contract EGT had signed with the Port.

On December 12th, the Occupy Movement again demonstrated its ability to mobilize by shutting down the Port of Oakland, affecting other ports on the West Coast, and turning out protesters all over the world. Part of that action was in solidarity with ILWU Local 21.

ILWU workers had engaged in militant protests and pickets over Longview that eventually led to arrests, court injunctions and massive fines against the union. Yet as the grain terminal was about to become operational, the ILWU remained shut out. The first ship to be loaded was due to arrive some time in January.

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In mid-December, Occupy Longview, Occupy Portland and Occupy Oakland began organizing "Stop the Loading of the Ship". This action was aimed at getting thousands of people to Longview, Washington at a moment's notice when news of the grain ship coming down the Columbia River first hit, in an attempt to prevent the ship from being loaded. Coupled with statements of support and mobilization actions from various local unions, it began to appear that Occupy, operating hand in hand with these other labor groups, might pull off another coup -- even if everyone had to wade through snow, slush and tear gas in southern Washington to do so.

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When the reality of what was about to hit Longview sunk in, strange things started to happen. The Coast Guard announced that a cutter (right) would escort the ship into port, a use of the US military in a labor dispute that had not happened for decades, even though no one had, or has, at any time, ever, in any way, threatened the ship itself. Governor Gregoire of Washington, who had attempted to intervene previously with no effect, tried to restart negotiations. And this time EGT came to the table willing to negotiate.

About a week and a half ago, as Occupy Oakland was doing practice runs of its convoy to Longview, the ILWU and EGT announced a tentative agreement.  On Friday a contract was signed giving the ILWU workers jurisdiction over grain loading operations at the new terminal.

Sure, it might have been because Mercury turned retrograde. Or it could have been a complete coincidence. But it sure as hell looks like some people in high places finally decided to act rationally because Occupy was about to pull off another radical action.

That's not just my hypothesis:

... members of the ILWU and the labor community named the Occupy Movement as key to the settlement reached Thursday between ILWU Local 21 and the Export Grain Terminal (EGT)...

"This is a victory for Occupy in their involvement in forcing negotiations. Make no mistake -- the solidarity and organization between the Occupy Movement and the Longshoremen won this contract," said Jack Mulcahy, ILWU officer with Local 8. "The mobilization of the Occupy Movement across the country, particularly in Oakland, Portland, Seattle, and Longview were a critical element in bringing EGT to the bargaining table and forcing a settlement with ILWU local 21."

...

"It is clear that the port shutdowns on November 2nd and December 12th, and the impending mobilization in Longview, is what made EGT come to the table. When Governor Gregoire intervened a year ago nothing was settled -- non-ILWU workers were still working in the port. It wasn't until rank and file and Occupy planned a mass convergence to blockade the ship that EGT suddenly had the impetus to negotiate." said Clarence Thomas, an officer of ILWU Local 10...

EGT itself made evident the company's concern about Occupy's role in the conflict in the January 27 settlement agreement: "The ILWU Entities shall issue a written notice to The Daily News and the general public, including the Occupy Movement, informing them of this settlement and urging them to cease and desist from any actions..."

Consider this quote from The Daily News in Washington
Several observers watching Tuesday berthing said the ship's arrival seemed almost anti-climactic, considering how the ILWU, other local labor groups and the Occupy movement had been calling for a mass protest to greet the ship. Union members and law enforcement had feared violence would erupt on the river or in the streets.
Or this quote from the Seattle Times at the time the preliminary agreement was announced:
The Occupy Movement was also organizing activists to converge on the town for a blockade of the loading operation when the grain ship arrived.
No one was unaware that Occupy was coming.

And this:

The ship reportedly has been anchored four hours away from Longview for weeks, held back by the threat of a massive protest. ILWU rank-and-file members, the Occupy movement and workers across the country vowed to block the massive carrier if there was any attempt to load the ship without ILWU workers.

Even the announcement that armed Coast Guard vessels would escort the ship failed to dampen the mobilization. Resolutions from the San Francisco Labor Council and North Carolina's United Electrical Local 150 and picket lines in New York City and other places condemned the threatened military intervention. Vivid memories of the militant demonstrations in Seattle at the 1999 World Trade Organization meeting no doubt helped spur the Washington governor to find a solution to the standoff.

Labor leaders and politicians will naturally downplay the role of Occupy.

But the fact remains that the ILWU, under threat of more fines and court non-interference orders, was unable to either force EGT to the bargaining table, stop other workers from working at the grain terminal, and, presumably, would not have been able to stop the ship from being loaded. Had that happened they would have acceded -- in fact if not in principle -- to not having jurisdiction over all longshore work on the West Coast.

The Occupy movement was not faced with Taft-Hartley impediments on labor actions or court orders. Occupy Oakland and Occupy Portland had demonstrated their mettle by the willingness of their members to take blows from the Oakland and Portland police yet come back ready to engage again. The threat of protest at Longview clearly changed the dynamic. And that, it turned out, was enough.

The ILWU may not have gotten everything it wanted -- such are the ways of bargaining -- but EGT did not achieve its main purpose: to break the ILWU's hold on the West Coast Ports. And Occupiers carved another notch in their belts.

If all you read are newspapers and all you watch is the 11:00 o'clock news, you may think that Occupy Oakland is all about confronting the Oakland Police. But this is utter nonsense.

For every confrontation there are hundreds of committee meetings; thousands of emails, and hours beyond hours of organizing and outreach devoted to both local and national Occupy goals. The West Coast Port Shutdown, plans for the Longview Convoy, planning for Move In Day on January 28th and tomorrow's Make Love, Not War rally, do not just happen magically, after all.

And that is why, when the Red Vine Licorice workers in Hayward, CA could make no headway in negotiations with a management that had locked them out, some of them came to Occupy Oakland to ask for support.

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That is why, when undocumented Pacific Steel workers were fired under suspicious circumstances and management threatened to refuse them their pensions, they came to Occupy Oakland to help organize a protest march, which will take place this Friday in Berkeley.

That is why, at Castlewood Country Club, when workers who catered to the every whim of the 0.1% were locked out over a dispute about health care benefits, those workers came to Occupy Oakland to call attention to their plight after two years of largely fruitless picketing. And now an action will take place on February 25th to do just that.

That is why the grocery workers of Oakland just recently came to Occupy Oakland to help galvanize the beginnings of their movement.

That is why, as the FTP march proceeded through West Oakland this Saturday evening, people came out of their homes and shouted their support.

As the local actions for Occupy the Prisons day, February 20th, were being planned, Occupy Oakland members played and continue to play an important role.

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And As the statewide march on Sacramento dubbed Occupy Education California has come together for March 1st through March 5th, Occupy Oakland educators have played a major role.

Some may watch in horror as the main stream media plays on infinite repeat the burning of a flag outside of Oakland City Hall, or "clashes" with instigated by police. But those who can look beyond the slander may understand that it is Occupiers, not politicians or even union leaders, who are providing inspiration to those in the ninety nine percent who are, day by day, being ground down further and further by the one percent.

This is not to say that Occupy Oakland's confrontations with the police are unimportant. Anyone who understands the history of Oakland understands why this cannot be the case. If you care enough to listen to Attorney Jim Chanin describe in detail how the Oakland Police have for decades terrorized Oakland's African-American and Latino communities while financially blackmailing the rest of Oakland to pay for their overtime and the lawsuits resulting from their misdeeds, you'll realize why this battle will not, and should not, go away. It represents the frustrations of generations of Oaklanders and a possibility, albeit slim, of some kind of redress.

Economic injustice is not just lack of health care, housing, and a job. It's also a family ripped asunder because its provider is in prison on trumped-up felony charges. And it's regressive taxes being paid to the City of Oakland because their police cannot control themselves.  And it's victims in the hospital, dead, injured and/or traumatized, because police are arresting people for failure to disperse instead of patrolling the city's streets and answering distress calls.

Truly, an injury to one is an injury to all be they union members in Longview and Pleasanton, undocumented workers in Berkeley, or the victims of the Oakland Police. It may be a bridge too far, but Occupiers have never been accused of having their sights set too low. Just ask EGT.

Originally posted to jpmassar on Mon Feb 13, 2012 at 09:21 AM PST.

Also republished by Occupy Wall Street, ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement, California politics, and SFKossacks.

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