Occupy protests shut down 2 Portland terminals, spread to Seattle
Occupy protests targeting ports in California spread up through the Pacific Northwest on Monday, shutting down two main shipping terminals at the Port of Portland before leading to a boisterous march on the Port of Seattle.
Portland’s main container terminal, the largest and busiest shipping facility at the port, closed early in the day as about 200 protesters marched in at dawn, setting up a tent and portable toilets.
Demonstrators also shut down nearby Terminal 5, which handles grain and potash shipments. “We’re going to see some lost hours, lost shifts — people won’t be able to work today because of this,” Josh Thomas, spokesman for the port, told The Times.
Demonstrators linked to the Occupy Wall Street movement set up pickets from San Diego to Anchorage on Monday as part of a coordinated move to shut down ports across the West Coast. In Portland, they carried signs and shouted slogans near trucks waiting to enter the terminals, effectively blocking operations as many port workers refused to cross their lines.
“Sorry for any inconvenience while we fix our democracy,” said a sign waved in front of one blocked truck.
As in Los Angeles, protesters in both Portland and Seattle were targeting terminals operated by Stevedore Services of America (SSA Marine), which is locked in a labor dispute with truck drivers in Los Angeles. Occupy movement leaders said SSA’s operations are also being singled out because SSA’s parent company, Seattle-based Carrix Inc., has Wall Street banking and securities firm Goldman Sachs as a major shareholder.
The biggest unions operating at the Northwest ports did not endorse the shut-downs, though protest organizers said the actions were in part an attempt to express solidarity with union workers’ rights. That was the case not only with the Los Angeles truckers, but also in Longview, Wash., where the International Longshore and Warehouse Union has been fighting attempts to block its members from working at a new $200-million grain shipping facility in favor of another union.
Longview’s port was closed Monday after about 60 Occupy protesters blocked access to the single ship in port, which was awaiting discharge of a load of iron oxide.
“The decision was made shortly after 8:00 to not work the one vessel we had in today, so approximately 20 longshoremen did not work today,” port spokeswoman Ashley Helenberg said.
Occupy Portland organizers said they succeeded in shutting down the two terminals because many port workers refused to cross their moving picket lines.
“The vast majority of workers chose to respect the picket lines. A few did choose to cross it and were let through at Terminal 5. But it was only a handful. The workers in not wanting to cross the line supported this action,” David Osborn, an instructor at Portland State University who was acting as a spokesman for the demonstrators, said in an interview.