GALVESTON — Three protesters were arrested Wednesday outside the Port of Galveston on accusations they spit on a bystander, threw an object through the window of a van and threw an egg at a truck, authorities said.
The misdemeanor arrests were made just west of where port workers were protesting a company they say used Houston laborers to unload a ship laden with steel slabs.
The ship was being unloaded by crews working for Superior Stevedoring Services, a Galveston company licensed in December to work on the island’s public docks.
Protester Earl Nash, a dock worker for 43 years, declined to say whether he was a member of a labor union and said the protest was about the company’s refusal to hire Galveston workers. Union members and workers not belonging to a union were protesting, he said.
Protesters held signs reading “the ship at Pier 37 is being worked at substandard wages and benefits.”
“There’s nobody from Galveston working the vessel,” Nash said. “If he was worried about employing people out of Houston, he should have taken his ship to Houston.”
John L. Sullivan, who owns Superior Stevedoring and other island-based companies, said some of his own employees and some temporary workers were unloading the ship.
Sullivan said his crews consisted of local and Houston labor.
Superior Stevedoring Services is the only such company in Galveston without a contract for labor from the International Longshoremen’s Association.
Sullivan said he’d been approached by the ILA about entering a labor contract before his license was granted but had declined.
“I have people from all over Galveston County and some from Houston,” he said. “I think you’d find that the ILA is much the same. Not all of them are from Galveston.”
No injuries had been reported during the protest, interim Galveston Police Chief Henry Porretto said.
“One was arrested for assault by contact,” Porretto said. “I think he spit on somebody that wasn’t even part of the operation. Then they had a van window broken out when somebody threw a rock or a brick.”
Sullivan said his workers reported that protesters threw eggs, rocks and one brick, which missed, at trucks from his company hauling steel slabs from the pier.
“We told our drivers to keep their windows rolled up and not stop,” he said. “Luckily, they can’t damage this cargo.”