EVERETT — Longshoremen in Everett left the docks Thursday to support colleagues in Longview, who earlier in the day stormed their port, overpowered security guards, and dumped grain in a labor dispute.
“They want to phase out longshoremen,” said Steve Ritchie of the International Longshore & Warehouse Union in Everett. “They want to make everything automatic.”
Ritchie said the action in Everett was for one day.
“We went down to go to work on the ships, the yard and the Boeing barges,” he said. “Our employers canceled the day and they’re sitting with a mediator right now.”
Port spokeswoman Lisa Lefeber said longshoremen left about 1:30 a.m.
“We do have a ship in port and our cargo operations are shut down right now,” she said. The ship, the Westwood Rainier, is loading equipment for oil and gold mining operations in Russia, Lefeber said.
“It was supposed to leave tomorrow,” she said, adding, “We’re just kind of in a holding pattern right now.”
Another ship, the Tanir, is scheduled to arrive with cargo on Saturday. Grain doesn’t ship from Everett, but it does from Seattle, Tacoma, Aberdeen, Portland, Vancouver and Longview.
The work stoppage doesn’t affect the port’s marina or other operations.
Ritchie said longshoremen will meet in the Everett hall tonight “to discuss this.”
In Longview, hundreds of longshore workers stormed damaged railroad cars and dumped grain that is the center of a labor dispute, said Longview Police Chief Jim Duscha.
Six guards were detained for a couple of hours after 500 or more Longshoremen broke down gates about 4:30 a.m. and smashed windows in the guard shack, he said.
No one was hurt, and nobody has been arrested. Most of the protesters returned to their union hall after cutting brake lines and spilling grain from car at the EGT terminal, Duscha said.
Labor officials said EGT Development has a new $200 million facility on Port of Longview property and was negotiating with the union to operate it for several months. Talks broke off and it hired a contractor who uses workers from another union, Operating Engineers Local 701, to do the job.
“This constitutes an assault on over 80 years of longshore jurisdiction — an assault that could fundamentally change the dynamics of the relationship within the grain industry as a whole,” Robert McEllrath, international longshore president, said in a statement sent last week to union locals. “It is critical to the longshore division that this does not happen.”
Meanwhile, the international union is investigating reports of a wildcat strike at the ports of Seattle and Tacoma.
“It appears the members have taken action on their own,” said ILWU spokesman Craig Merrilees from union headquarters in San Francisco. “We’re trying to understand how many are involved and to what extent this apparent wildcat action has spread.”
Thursday’s violence at Longview was first reported by Kelso radio station KLOG.
Police from several agencies in southwest Washington, the Washington State Patrol and Burlington Northern Santa Fe responded to the violence to secure the scene that followed a demonstration Wednesday.
“We’re not surprised,” Duscha said. “A lot of the protesters were telling us this is only the start.”
In Everett, there were a number of union signs with slogans like “EGT unfair to ILWU” and “EGT seeking unfair advantage on grain exports.”
“They’re trying to get rid of the longshore jobs,” Ritchie said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.