As the chairman of the Cowlitz Wahkiakum Central Labor Council (Cow-Wah CLC) during the ILWU/EGT dispute I had the responsibility of trying to keep the peace and fulfill my responsibilities to the objectives of the Constitution and Bylaws of the Cow-Wah CLC.
This was, to say the least was “very challenging” during this period of heightened awareness.
In order to fulfill these obligations and be successful it required careful observation, gathering and understanding of the facts, communicating with interested parties and troubleshooting by eliminating things that don’t work and continually searching for something that will.
I have 30 years of experience in the construction industry; as a craftsperson, supervisor and steward combine this with my 4 years as a Business Agent for UA Local 26 and my career has been filled with troubleshooting challenges on a daily basis. This gave me many valuable life lessons. Most importantly, I have learned, when making a critical decision to “get out in the field and gather evidence personally” don’t rely on others.
I served in the Presidents’ capacity of two Council’s, at a time when our community was being divided over issues. Issues which seemed pretty clear to most of our local politicians. The ILWU was working under had a contract with The Port of Longview and EGT was not going to honor the document, even if the Port of Longview filed suit against EGT for violation of the agreement.
Our local citizens were not being treated fairly by a new out-of-town employer and it was our responsibility to rally around those in need and find a workable solution to our problem within the means of the law, yet fully exercising our constitutional rights.
On September 7th everyone at the rally was under the impression they were not trespassing according to a map the Port of Longview had previously given the ILWU. I was there to get as close as legally possible to the scene and observe the actions. I was in communication with other higher level Washington State Labor Leaders that were not able to get there. I was able to report to them first hand, of the event’s taking place.
Jeff Johnson,President of the Washington State Labor Council had been working around the clock on this issue for the past several months, as well as, Dave Myers Executive Secretary of the Washington State Building and Construction Trades Council. I was there as a responsible party to report my findings and continue to help craft a workable solution to the ongoing protest. I am much more valuable to this community as a troubleshooter not a trouble maker.
Once the early September protests were over we learned dealing directly with EGT was a dead end road and we needed more help. On September 27th the Labor Council held a special meeting with representatives from the ILWU including Dan Coffman and the 19th Legislative District Representatives; Brian Blake and Dean Takko, along with Senator Mark Hatfield.
After discussing many ideas during the meeting we finally realized what it is going to take to settle the issue. Get ILWU President “Big Bob McElrath” and EGT CEO “Larry Clarke” in the same room together with the Washington State out-going Governor. This succeeded and many,many meetings later it was settled.
However for many of us, it was just the beginning as each of us is being individually dragged through the courts.
Jeff Washburn, President Longview Kelso Building & Construction Trades Council, March 19, 2012
Former President Cowlitz Wahkiakum Central Labor Council (Resigned Feb 2012)
“Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.”