By Aaron Corvin, May 1, 2013, The Columbian
Vancouver police showed up in force at the Port of Vancouver this morning in preparation for a large gathering of protesters who oppose the Feb. 27 decision by United Grain Corp. to lock out union dockworkers.
There were no illegal incidents, and the gathering of International Longshore and Warehouse Union picketers was about 10 people, “fairly small,” according to Vancouver police spokeswoman Kim Kapp.
Kapp said police, who arrived near a gate on the port’s east side with a dozen patrol cars and two motorcyles, were focused on maintaining public safety, especially in light of today being May 1 — a national holiday around the world with ties to labor advocacy.
“We were just prepared for that, given the fact that we have had this dispute going on in our community already,” Kapp said.
Police also showed up this morning at the Holiday Inn Express near the Westfield Vancouver mall, according to Kapp. “We were out there to see if there (were) any issues since there had been a group out there last week,” Kapp wrote in an email to The Columbian. “There was nothing noteworthy today.”
Kapp said the group at the Holiday Inn included ILWU picketers. She said police were there to make sure roadways were accessible and that vehicles weren’t delayed.
In addition to pickets at the Port of Vancouver this morning, several vehicles entered the United Grain site, including a white van, a semi truck and a red car.
The Columbian was present at the site. At times, ILWU picketers shouted at the vehicles. They also jotted down information about the vehicles and videotaped them. Written on at least one of the ILWU’s picket signs was this: “Go Home Scab!”
United Grain and the ILWU are at odds over a new labor contract as part of a larger conflict between grain-terminal operators and union dockworkers in the Pacific Northwest. The brouhaha intensified on Feb. 27, when United Grain locked out 44 dockworkers at the port after it alleged a union official sabotaged equipment. The union has denied any wrongdoing, and the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney is weighing whether to file criminal charges.
Before the Feb. 27 lockout by United Grain, Northwest grain terminal operators had prepared for either a lockout or a strike, including bringing in security personnel. Gettier, a Wilmington, Del., company whose services include protection of replacement workers and videotaping picket line activities, has visited the premises of United Grain and other sites.
Pat McCormick, a spokesman for the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Association, which represents United Grain and other terminal operators in negotiations with the ILWU, said the United Grain facility is “operating normally with UGC management and non-represented staff.”