eNews • October 7, 2011
Promoting a Cost-Effective, Reliable and Competitive Transportation System

Train under police protection reaches grain terminal without incident

A mile-long train entered the EGT grain terminal at the Port of Longview on September 29 without incident and without a single longshore protester present, perhaps signaling a further change in union tactics in its battle with the terminal operator.

The train was escorted slowly through the port by a Burlington Northern Santa Fe police vehicle while a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter circled overhead. About a half dozen law-enforcement officers manned several rail intersections but did not block traffic.

The 110-car train was carrying wheat and entered the terminal just before 10 a.m., BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas said.

It was the first train to deliver grain to the new $200 million terminal that was not greeted by protests from members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. The train arrived the day before a federal judge was scheduled to decide whether to fine the union nearly $300,000 over its previous protests.

The railroad has been running "around the clock" patrols since rail lines were "tampered" with Monday at a dozen locations between Vancouver and Chehalis, Melonas said. He declined to identify what kind of tampering or whether BNSF has any suspects, but repairs are complete, he confirmed.

Union officials said they knew the train was coming but chose to let it pass out of concern for the safety of protesters.

"Given the abusive tactics of railroad police and Cowlitz County law enforcement acting as the private security force for EGT — when they physically accosted sisters, wives, and mothers peacefully protesting on Port of Longview owned tracks the last time a train came in — we chose to be the first ones to tone down the intensity," Leal Sundet, the longshore union's coast committeeman, said in a written statement.

The union wanted "to send a message to Larry Clarke, CEO of EGT, that it would be prudent for him and in the best interest of all parties to sit down with ILWU International President Robert McEllrath to solve this dispute. The only real method of resolution is for that meeting to take place as soon as possible," Sundet added.

Last week, a dozen protesters were arrested when they sat on the tracks near the end of International Way past the old Long-Bell White House. Those arrested included Dan Coffman, president of the longshore union's Longview-based Local 21. One woman said she suffered a shoulder injury when police hauled her away, and two men were charged with felonies for allegedly assaulting police while rushing to help her. Nine of the protesters were female relatives of union longshoremen.

"Our officers... have acted professionally, and we don't agree with what they (the union) have to say," regarding police abuse of protesters, said Grover Laseke, a sheriff's office spokesman.

Police tamped down their presence Thursday morning considerably at the terminal compared to last week, when roadblocks snarled traffic throughout the Industrial Way corridor and police in riot gear and an armored vehicle swarmed to guard a grain train that arrived Sept. 21. Laseke said police wanted to prevent a repeat of a Sept. 7 incident, when about 400 protesters blocked an incoming train for about four hours.

"It seems like there's been a scaling back on the part of the folks doing the protesting, and we're pleased," he said.

A federal judge has ordered the International Longshore and Warehouse Union to refrain from blocking trains, trespassing on rail lines or engaging in violent or threatening picketing.

Since the beginning of July, 213 arrests have been made and 10 summons requested as a result of the dispute at the Port of Longview, according to the Cowlitz County Sheriff's office. Fifty-three of these people have been booked into jail, and the remainder were cited and released. Ten of those arrested face felony charges, according to the sheriff's office.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union has argued that its labor agreement with the port requires EGT to hire union longshore labor to operate the $200 million terminal. EGT officials say their lease agreement only requires the company to meet with the union.

The company instead hired union contractor General Construction Co., which uses union operating engineers based out of Gladstone, Ore.

Source: The Daily News Online


The Soy Transportation Coalition is comprised of thirteen state soybean boards, the American Soybean Association, and the United Soybean Board. The National Grain and Feed Association and the National Oilseed Processors Association serve as ex-officio members of the organization.

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