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Labor Violence in Longview And Why That’s Not Necessarily Bad

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The Longshoremen’s strike in Longview, Washington, which I have discussed before, has gone hard-core, with union members “unofficially” deciding to bust up the offending company’s property. The company, EGT, violated an agreement it made to use union labor to unload grain. The Longshoremen have supported their Longview brothers and sisters by not coming to work in Seattle and Tacoma, essentially shutting down the Puget Sound docks.

This is kind of a big deal. It’s a small strike in a small town that could have big implications. If the Longshoremen decide to stand strong and expand their sympathy strikes, they could have a real short-term impact on the economy. The Longshoremen have always been one tough union, going back to the days of Harry Bridges.

I’ll be frank here–I have absolutely no problem with the Longview local’s actions of breaking some windows, dumping grain, and damaging rail cars. I know some of you will be outraged by union violence, even though they have hurt no one, but if your livelihood is being destroyed, isn’t that violence committed against you? Certainly this is an extreme action for this day and age, and you wouldn’t want to resort to such actions everyday, but as I have said before, extreme actions need to be part of the union playbook. With all-out war declared against unions, at what point do workers press the boundaries of the law, a legal code increasingly defined to limit people’s rights to organize?

Not surprisingly, the courts look very poorly on such actions, but theoretically at least, so long as the union leadership can prove this is not centrally planned, they might get away with it.

In any case, this is a situation very much worth following.

Update: Here’s Craig Merrilees, Communications Director for the ILWU on the Rick Smith Show, talking about the struggle of the Longview workers.

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