PORTLAND, OR (May 18, 2013) – A Portland longshore worker is recovering at home after being struck by a Marubeni-Columbia Grain customer that was crossing an ILWU picket line at the Port of Portland on May 16. The worker, a member of ILWU Local 92, was knocked to the ground after the semi truck’s driver confronted picketers and then allowed his semi to lurch forward into about a dozen picketing workers.
“It was scary to watch one of our brothers knocked to the ground by a truck that towered over everyone in its path,” said Martin Nelson, who was ILWU Local 8’s picket captain at the time of the incident. “The semi driver lost his cool, made threats toward the picketers, and without warning, his truck lurched forward into the crowd and knocked one of us over.” Bruce Holte, ILWU Local 8 president, said, “The District Attorney’s office is reviewing video of the semi truck driving into the picket line, and we believe any fair process will result in charges bring brought against the driver. There’s no excuse for driving into picketers and putting their lives at risk.”
The injured longshore worker was knocked to the ground and remained there until medical staff arrived. He was brought to the hospital and found to have minor injuries to his knee, elbow and back. The union is not identifying the worker out of respect for his privacy. The truck belonged to a dairy in Bellfountain, Oregon.
ILWU members are volunteering to staff round-the-clock picket lines to protest the employer-initiated lockout at the Port of Portland’s Columbia Grain, which is owned by Japan-based Marubeni. The lockout began on May 4 and results in about 75 local workers being left unemployed each day. Marubeni has hired Delaware-based strikebreaking firm J.R. Gettier and Associates to provide security and replacement workers during the lockout.
Marubeni is a member of the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers’ Association, which also includes United Grain in Vancouver (which is owned by Japan’s Mitsui, and which locked out ILWU Local 4 members on February 27); Louis Dreyfus Commodities in Seattle and Portland (LDC is French-owned but presently headquartered in the Netherlands to avoid French tax increases on the wealthy), and Tacoma-based TEMCO, with facilities in Kalama, Tacoma and Portland. All of the employers except TEMCO imposed a concessionary agreement in December that had been rejected by 94% in a union membership vote; TEMCO continued to negotiate with the ILWU and reached an agreement that was passed by the membership by a 74% yes vote and ratified in February. The ILWU has called on Marubeni and the other foreign grain employers to return to the negotiating table and consider the TEMCO agreement for negotiations.