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Judge Fines Longshore Union $250,000 After Members Attacked Guards, Damaged Property in Labor Revolt


"We have to do something about it, and I'm going to do something."

Members of the Longshore Union attacked guards, dumped grain and destroyed property during a labor dispute in early September. A federal judge fined the organization $250,000 Friday for the tactics. (AP Photo)

TACOMA, Wash. (The Blaze/AP) -- A federal judge fined a Longshore union $250,000 on Friday for its tactics in a Longview labor dispute, and he warned that individual protesters could face their own penalties for future violations of his orders.

U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton has already held the International Longshore and Warehouse Union in contempt for blocking a train and storming a grain terminal earlier this month. Authorities have said the protesters overpowered security guards, damaged railroad cars and dumped grain.

A member of the union also attacked a news crew covering the scene, grabbing their camera and telling them to "get the f*ck out of here now."

"What's going on out there is awful," Leighton said. "We have to do something about it, and I'm going to do something."

The National Labor Relations Board had asked the court to fine the union more than $290,000 to cover the damages and expenses, such as overtime for law enforcement agencies. Leighton said he rounded down to be cautious and ordered additional penalties for future violations, including $25,000 for the union, $5,000 for union officers and $2,500 for other individuals.

In a previous court hearing, Leighton likened the union members to "juvenile delinquent[s]" when he asked the union lawyers whether fines would make their clients behave.

"I fell like I'm asking the parents of a juvenile delinquent to predict their behavior," he said according to Tacoma's News Tribune.

The union plans to appeal the decision, attorney Robert Remar said after the hearing. He had argued that the union has the right to assess whether the proposed damages and expenses were proper, saying that he believes some of them were excessive and inflated.

"What the court engaged in here is back-of-the-napkin guestimates," ILWU coast committeeman Leal Sundet said in a statement. "There was no attempt to distinguish events arguably connected with what the union is accused of doing on the 7th and 8th of September 2011 and those events that are unrelated to any alleged union conduct."

The protesters in Longview have viewed themselves as being the latest front in the struggle for American jobs and benefits during the economic downturn. The dispute has continued to escalate, with protesters resorting to aggressive tactics, including attacking the news crew, that have been a rarity in recent labor disputes around the country.

Union protesters believe they have the right to work at a new grain terminal at the Port of Longview that is currently being staffed by workers from a different union, Oregon-based Operating Engineers Local 701.

Leighton is scheduled to address the larger dispute, focused on different interpretations of port contracts, in a hearing later Friday.

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