Longview port shuts down after Occupy protest

By Manuel Valdes

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Dec. 12 2011 1:11 p.m. MST

Occupy protesters march to the Port of Longview to block an entrance in Longview, Wash., Monday, Dec. 12, 2011. Anti-Wall Street protesters along the West Coast joined an effort Monday to blockade some of the nation's busiest docks, with the idea that if they cut off the ports, they cut into corporate profits.

Don Ryan, Associated Press

SEATTLE — Longshoremen at the Longview port have gone home for the day, essentially shutting down the terminal Monday after an Occupy Wall Street demonstration.

The International Longshore & Warehouse Union sent home its workers out of concern for their "health and safety," spokeswoman Jennifer Sargent said.

"Our people are willing and able to go to work," Sargent said.

However, both the port and the union decided to shut down operations, said Port of Longview spokeswoman Ashley Helenberg. She said about 20 shifts would be affected. The port was handling one ship Monday.

Union workers would be paid for four hours of work, the union said.

The Longview rally, which numbered a few dozen people, was among a series of coordinated Occupy Wall Street protests at the West Coast's busiest ports. Demonstrators hoped the rallies would cut into the profits of the corporations that run the docks.

The closures also affected some terminals at the ports in Oakland, Calif., and Portland, Ore., though it wasn't immediately clear how much the shutdowns would affect operations and what the economic loss would be.

Union leadership in Washington has said they are sympathetic to the demands of the Occupy Wall Street movement but that they don't support Monday's actions.

In Longview, the International Longshore & Warehouse Union and the port have been engaged in a protracted labor dispute, and the union president said the Occupy movement was co-opting their fight.

"As the Occupy movement, which began in September 2011, sweeps this country, there is a real danger that forces outside of the ILWU will attempt to adopt our struggle as their own," ILWU president Robert McEllrath said in a statement posted on the union's website Saturday.

Sargent said that if union workers participated in the Occupy protest, they did so as individuals, not as part of the union. She added it remains to be seen what will happen at the bigger port of Seattle when Occupy Seattle protesters are scheduled to rally there Monday afternoon.

Meanwhile, Port of Seattle officials said they are coordinating with local and federal authorities to "ensure that the port facilities remain open and can operate safely and efficiently."

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