SAN FRANCISCO, CA – One hundred members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) held a spirited protest at the Honduran Consulate this morning in San Francisco to support Honduran port workers who are suffering human rights violations and retaliation by the government of Honduras and private port operator, International Container Terminal Services Incorporated (ICTSI).
Today’s protest was sparked by an incident on Tuesday, March 4, when three elected leaders of the Honduran Port Workers Union (Spanish acronym SGTM) established a picket line in front of the International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI) operation at Terminal 6 in Portland, Oregon. The Honduran port workers carried picket signs reading, “SGTM LOCKED OUT ICTSI” and explained that they have been facing physical assault, military repression, death threats, and anti-union attacks since ICTSI won a concession agreement from the government of Honduras to operate the cargo terminal at Puerto Cortes, Honduras, in February of 2013.
ILWU dockworkers in Portland refused to cross the picket line in solidarity, and an arbitrator ruled that the work stoppage was not illegal under the collective bargaining agreement. When the port workers returned home to Honduras two days later, they learned that the Honduran National Police were seeking to detain and arrest them for exercising their free speech rights at the ICTSI gate in Portland.
“ICTSI and the government of Honduras need to stop violating the human rights of these dockworkers,” said ILWU International President Bob McEllrath, who led the Friday morning protest with International Vice President Ray Familathe. McEllrath based his comments about human rights violations on a letter delivered to the US Embassy in Honduras on March 6, 2014, from the AFL-CIO supported Solidarity Center. The letter accused ICTSI of using its influence with Honduran authorities to conduct reprisals against port workers: “It is also disturbing that the Honduran government and police appear to be acting on behalf of and under the direction of ICTSI, and that the company provided the Honduran government and police with the information of the protest in Portland and the picture of the SGTM members from the Oregonian.” The Solidarity Center further stated, “That ICTSI is utilizing its influence with the Honduran police to conduct reprisals on SGTM members’ raises even further concern about issues of corruption within the Honduran police and a continued failure by the Honduran police to respect and uphold human rights.”