Locked out at United Grain

March 18, 2013

SOME 400 supporters of locked-out members of International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 4 rallied in Vancouver, Wash., on March 8.

United Grain Corp. (UGC) locked out 44 workers at the Port of Vancouver on February 27, claming that union members tampered with equipment. But workers say that this is just the latest attempt by United Grain, which refuses to bargain in good faith during contract negotiations, to break the union. A contract with four companies covered by the Pacific Northwest Grain Handler's Agreement, which includes UGC, expired on September 29.

"We don't care how long. We're going to win this struggle," Local 4 President Cager Clabaugh told the crowd. Fellow dockworkers and workers rights groups from around the area and as far away as California cheered him on.

ILWU International President Robert McEllrath raised a copy of the contract that the union is demanding and announced to the crowd, "Let me tell you what we're going to do. We're going to march up the street to UGC's office, and I'm going to hand them the...contract."

Union members then led a march to the local office of United Grain to deliver a copy of the contract. Protesters filled the plaza in front of the building and blocked three lanes of traffic. Security for the building refused to let anyone into the building to deliver the contract, so protesters continued their protest in front, holding banners and chanting "Rats in the grain!"

Eventually, a police officer was allowed to bring in the contract as a compromise. Pat McCormick, spokesperson for the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Association, gave the condescending comment, "We're perfectly capable and able to get things by e-mail. They don't need an escort."

But obviously they do, since UGC has so far refused to respond to workers' e-mails. What McCormick and United Grain don't seem to understand is that they can't just ignore the union because workers aren't going quietly into the night.

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