Union protesters block Port of Vancouver

Police at the Port of Vancouver, Wash., where union protesters blocked the entrance, preventing workers from getting in Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014. (KOIN 6 News)
Police at the Port of Vancouver, Wash., where union protesters blocked the entrance, preventing workers from getting in Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014. (KOIN 6 News)

VANCOUVER, Wash. (KOIN) – A blockade of union protesters prevented workers from getting into the grain terminal at the Port of Vancouver Wednesday morning.

Trooper William Finn, a Washington State Patrol spokesman, told KOIN that troopers were escorting a busload of workers to the port at about 6 a.m., a standard daily practice since the union lockout began in February 2013.

However, they were met at the gate by a small group of about 10 protesters. Troopers were unsuccessful in getting the workers through, and called in Vancouver police for help. The bus was forced to turn around. Police closed West Mill Plain Boulevard at Thompson Avenue, near Gate 2 of the port, Vancouver police spokeswoman Kim Kapp said.

The protesters were carrying signs and a blow horn. They eventually left sometime after 7 a.m. and the workers were able to get in.

Kapp said officers responded to reports of threats, vandalism and criminal mischief this morning. However, she later confirmed that the protest ended without any damage or arrests.

According to The Columbian newspaper, the protest is in response to a messy and ongoing contract dispute between terminal owner United Grain Corp. and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union that began one year ago. On Feb. 27, 2013, the port locked out 44 union dockworkers, accusing them of sabotaging company equipment during the negotiations. United Grain brought in replacement workers to operate the export terminal.

A year on, the lockout has not yet been resolved.

Kapp said Wednesday that, since the lockout began, it is common practice for grain inspectors to be escorted to the port by WSP. She was unsure if any inspectors had been brought in this morning.

Brent Weisberg contributed to this report.

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