Tacoma longshoremen rally amid West Coast port slowdown

By Alexis Krell, January 23, 2015, The News Tribune

A couple hundred longshoremen in safety vests and hard hats filled Tollefson Plaza in downtown Tacoma on Thursday in a show of union solidarity amid a monthslong slowdown at West Coast ports.


The longshoremen and supporters marched through downtown after the rally near South 17th Street and Pacific Avenue.


Dean McGrath, president of the International Longshore Workers Union Local 23 in Tacoma, said the protest was to inform the community about what’s been happening with the slowdown and to allow the longshoremen to support each other.


“This is a scary fight for everyone,” he said after the rally.


The ILWU and the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents employers at 29 West Coast ports, have been in negotiations during the more than three months of the slowdown of container traffic across West Coast docks.


The union has blamed the PMA’s decision to cancel night shifts. The PMA has accused the union of withholding important skilled workers needed to move cargo.


A federal mediator recently started to intervene.


The Tacoma protest was scheduled for the same time as another in the San Pedro neighborhood of Los Angeles, where about 5,000 people planned to march days after employers cut night shifts, which union officials said affected about 800 jobs, according to the Daily Breeze newspaper in Torrance.


“We can only win this fight by sticking together,” McGrath said.


Young longshoremen in Tacoma had a presence at the Tacoma rally.


“We’re extremely concerned about it,” 31-year-old Kyle Guinn said. “This is our future.”


Meghan Mason, 25, was one of those who spoke to the crowd, saying her shift that used to end at 5 a.m. now starts about that early.


When asked what she wanted people to know about the rally, she said: “I’m ready to go to work.”

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