“Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.
On Wednesday morning I gathered with several local clergy and over 100 union members from SW Washington and Portland to bring attention to the labor injustice going on in our community. This article from The Columbian gives a little background. We gathered at the Holiday Inn hotel just West of the Vancouver Mall, that is housing replacement workers and private security forces for United Grain Corporation in a peaceful protest of their actions in our community. Local 4 of the Longshoremen have been locked out since February 27th and replacement workers have been trucked into the port by private security vans crossing the picket line several times a day.
Showing up at the Holiday Inn housing these workers and their security is a way of highlighting their presence. Some people call this intimidation and ask why there should be any such protest at all. Others who support the Union believe that protests should be directed only towards the company. What these criticisms miss is the system behind the injustice in labor struggles. They miss that these replacement workers and their security as well as Holiday Inn and the City of Vancouver are all making it easier for Corporations to keep both working conditions and pay low.
These are the reasons that I was at the Holiday Inn on May Day and that I support the informal public education campaign of the Longshoremen;
- The replacement workers need to know that they are being used by United Grain and that their dignity is being stolen from them. The economy is hard and people need work, but by allowing themselves to be used by a corporation they become nothing more than cogs in the machine of corporate profit. There is no pride in crossing a picket line and people should be proud of the work they do. The difference in pay for union and non-union labor is put directly into the bank account of wealthy shareholders with no concern for their humanity or welfare. The animosity shown towards these individuals is most often frustration that they would give up their dignity for money and that they would disregard the families in this community.
- United Grain Corporation must be reminded that the community is paying attention to how they treat their workers. By standing and shining the light on United Grain’s shameful actions and strong arm tactics, the community can see that UGC will use all means necessary to get their way. By acting as if they are the victims of the “big bad unions” and calling in the police to make the unions look dangerous, UGC is lying to the community and not fulfilling their responsibility as a good corporate citizen. They have responsibilities to our community and they are not living up to them.
- The community must be shown that there are individuals who will continue to fight for the rights of workers and that Union strength keeps wages and working conditions higher for everyone. By standing vigil at the Port of Vancouver and uncovering the ways that United Grain is abusing the system and hiding replacement workers and their security forces in our community, Local 4 is standing up and saying , we will not tolerate corporate lies and secrets. We will not allow you to use the media and police to spread those lies in our community, and we will attempt to make it difficult and uncomfortable for you to continue hurting people.
One last thing that needs to be pointed out is that the Union workers at UGC do not want to be out protesting, and they do not want to be on the picket lines, they want to be at work supporting their families and contributing to our community. UGC has the power to change this situation immediately by bargaining in good faith and making a fair and reasonable offer that allows workers to support their families with dignity and work in safety.
This is the third in a series of posts about the Longshoremen and Local 4 and the lock-out by United Grain at the Port of Vancouver. The first is An Injury to One is an Injury to All and the second is Take your Child to Work Day, Labor Style please have a look.