Oregon

Q&A: Will Port Shutdown Hurt Most The People It Wants To Help?

OPB | Dec. 12, 2011 9:03 a.m. | Updated: July 17, 2012 1:02 a.m. | Portland, OR

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Beth: Several hundred Occupy protesters managed to shut down two of the busiest terminals at the Port of Portland this morning.  They’re now trying to keep them shut for the second shift on Monday. Kristian Foden-Vencil has been at the protest today and joins me now…

Good afternoon.

Kristian: Good afternoon.

Beth: So what’s the latest?

Kristian: Protesters this morning managed to block Terminals 5 and 6, and the union says no other work has been ordered for the second shift today. Those terminals deal with grain, potash and shipping containers — like the ones you see on the back of trucks. The protesters were there early this morning.  But once they managed to shut the port down, many were advised told to go home, get some rest then return this afternoon make sure the blockade lasts all day.


Photos by Kristian Foden-Vencil/OPB News

Protesters definitely feel they’ve been successful. Here’s David Osborn. He’s a teacher at Portland State University and a union member.

David Osborn: “This is an historic day of action. There are ports up and down the west coast being blockaded. Rally this is the first time something like this has happened in decades.  And we are shutting down Wall street on the Waterfront. and moving forward and recognizing our collective power to achieve economic justice.”

Beth: How does this work ? For example, were trucks turning up all day and being turned around? Did dock workers get turned away?

Kristian: Well, not exactly. The action has been planned for days now and there have been negotiations between protesters, police, union members and the people who run the grain terminals and shipping companies.

Mike Gardner of the Local 8 ILWU told me that it wasn’t union members who refused to cross the protest line. Instead, it was the shipping companies and grain terminal operators who decided not to open up for the day.

Mike Gardner: “At six o’clock this morning they called me and told me they weren’t going to put any orders in today. They weren’t going to hire any longshoremen today. They were just going to close the gate and hopefully start up again Tuesday. So we had about 250 longshoremen at a hiring hall this morning, hoping for those jobs to get ordered, which did not happen.”

Kristian: Gardner says people will be working extra hard over the next few days to try and catch up.

Just to give you an idea, something like 500 drivers a day turn up at Terminal 6 and about half a dozen shipments were delayed as a result of today’s actions.

Beth: Well, what did the Port of Portland have to say about all this?

Kristian: Well, Port spokesman, Josh Thomas told me the port has had to turn away truck traffic, dock workers, rail workers and office workers. He says the impact is lost wages, lost hours and delays.

Josh Thomas: “The unfortunate part of this is the intent was to send a message to the 1 percent. But the impacts are being squarely felt by the 99 percent who work here. And the ports are where the 99 percent work.”

Kristian: So the port is not happy. But again, they hope to be able to catch up with work tomorrow.

Beth: Well, what about the police. I understand you did see some cops in riot gear this morning?

Kristian: Yes I did, early on. But after a short stand-off, they were pulled out and protesters were left to block the gates and carry on their action. Here’s Police spokesman, Lieutenant Robert King:

Robert King: “There were a group  of people that made contact with one of the trucks there. And I think they sent officers there to tell them not to touch the trucks. And I think encourage some of the trucks because the port isn’t open today to encourage them to leave. So that’s been about it. I man people are here protesting peacefully. It’s been peaceful since it started this morning and we’re just here in support of the Port.”

Beth: I understand Governor Kitzhaber had something to say about the blockage?

Kristian: Yeah. Here he was at a business summit this afternoon.

John Kitzhaber: “I am very sympathetic to the question of the whole stratification of income in our country and having said that a quarter of a our manufacturing jobs are export dependent.

Kristian: He went on to say it’s important the Occupy movement doesn’t do damage to the people it’s trying to benefit.

Along the west coast, the ‘day of action’ also closed ports in Oakland, California and Longview, Washington. Protesters briefly blocked traffic at the Port of Long Beach, California, but the protest there ended hours after it began.

Beth: Thank you very much Kristian.

Kristian: My pleasure.

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