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Last Thursday, the judge upped the ante. He found the ILWU in contempt of court, adding that he would fine the union with the amount determined by an EGT analysis of the damage done during the thuggery that occurred on September 8th. Leighton, who didn’t order anyone to be put in jail, spent five hours berating the union protesters whom he referred to as a “mob.”
Testimony by one of the guards held hostage on that night was revealing. Terminal guard Charlie Cadwell told the court that every protester he saw that night was carrying “baseball bats, lead pipes and garden tools.” He also said he was pulled out of his car by a one longshoreman, while another one swung a pipe at him. After someone drove away with his car, Cadwell said “40 to 50 people” threw rocks at him, striking him in the knee and between the eyes. Longview police Sgt. Mark Langlois also testified, saying that he responded to a call about several vehicles leaving the longshore union hall on 14th Avenue in Longview, but was prevented from taking any action when a vehicle blocked his path. He, too, was threatened by a bat-wielding mob. “I was by myself. I was completely outnumbered,” said Langlois. “I wasn’t about to stop any of these people from doing whatever it is they were going to do.”
One can only wonder what will. Despite the judge’s contempt of court citation, the union remains undeterred. “Accountability goes both ways,” they said in a statement. “The workers faced the judge today, but so far there has been no accountability for multinational EGT, which has created chaos in the community by taking millions in a special tax exemption, breaking their agreement to hire ILWU workers, suing the port, and trying to destabilize the grain industry in the Northwest.” The final part of the statement revealed a further defiance of reality. ”If union members stand on a train track exercising their First Amendment rights, it is a crime. But, if a major corporation plunders an entire community, it matters not,” it concluded.
Last Friday, union antics continued. Approximately 200 workers massed in front of the Cowlitz County Hall of Justice in Kelso, where they announced they were planning to “surrender themselves to the police” to answer charges for the previous week’s demonstrations. They were also responding to the previous day’s announcement by Cowlitz County Sheriff Mark Nelson that six more people had been arrested in connection with September 7th’s train blockade, with additional arrests likely to come. The protesters claimed they were tired of police officers following them home and arresting them. The police refused to rise to the bait, and the protesters dispersed after a half an hour.
Three things come to mind with respect to this story. The first was a very revealing quote during the confrontation between police and the protesters blocking the train on September 7th. When police tried to move the mob, union workers shouted, “We stood with you!” at the union police officers. This reveals a disturbing mindset, one that has already played itself out during the protests in Madison Wisconsin, where the unionized police force refused to enforce an order to remove protesters from the capitol building. In Washington state, police have acted admirably. In Wisconsin, they did not. Americans rightfully expect law enforcement officials to be police officers first, and union members second. It remains to be seen what choice unionized police forces make in the future. But it is very likely that Americans expecting consistency on a nation-wide basis will be disappointed.
Second, the lack of mainstream media coverage of these ongoing events is appalling. The reporting here has been overwhelmingly undertaken by local news organizations, despite two major incidents of union thuggery, a contempt of court citation by a U.S. district court judge, and work stoppages engaged in by other union members sympathetic to the ILWU’s cause. Stoppages that have effectively shut down cargo handling at the ports of Tacoma and Seattle. One can only wonder what it takes for such news to warrant the attention of mainstream members of the Fourth Estate.
Lastly, one is left to guess whether or not Teamster leader James Hoffa’s Labor Day call to “take these sons of bitches out and give America back to America where we belong” has begun to pay “dividends.” Perhaps the only thing more distressing than the remarks themselves was the fact that they were part of Hoffa’s introduction to President Obama’s appearance at the rally — an introduction the president himself refused to condemn, all previous exhortations for civility notwithstanding.
Even if Mr. Obama can’t bring himself to confront union thuggery for the right reasons, he might want to consider the political aspect of such reticence. Saturday was supposed to be a “Day of Rage” against the capitalist system that many unions rail against in their literature. 20,000 protesters were expected to converge on Wall Street. About 300 hundred people actually showed up. Furthermore, only 12 percent of the entire labor force belongs to a union and in many areas around the country, Americans have made it clear, especially with respect to public sector employees, that the status quo is no longer acceptable — or affordable.
That the president may have been reluctant to challenge members of a Democratic core constituency when these incidents first occurred might be, from a cynically political perspective, somewhat understandable. That he has said nothing after the issuance of a contempt of court citation is inexcusable.
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