One thing a labor leader learns to do is read people and situations. And as a leader of Whatcom County's labor community and a lifelong resident, it's evident to me a majority of my fellow Whatcom citizens support the Gateway Pacific Terminal.
It shouldn't be a surprise that union members want the project - we are all too familiar with the struggle for more good union jobs - but the fact is, people of every stripe in our community support the project. A recent poll showed that 59 percent of Whatcom and Skagit county voters support the Gateway project. This mirrors a separate poll commissioned by EarthFix, a collaboration of Pacific Northwest Public Radio stations, which found 55 percent of Pacific Northwest residents support new coal exporting facilities in our region.
So obviously, support is much broader than union members. Here in Whatcom County, more than 10,000 local citizens from all walks of life signed a petition for the project, supporting its thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenues.
In addition, all of Whatcom County's small-city mayors from Ferndale, Blaine, Lynden, Everson, Nooksack and Sumas, have endorsed Gateway. Representatives from the 42nd Legislative District are all in favor of the project, as are the 58 members of U.S. Congress who signed on to a letter requesting permits for the project be issued in a fair and timely manner. So are the Washington State Realtors Association - Washington's largest business organization, which represents more than 700,000 employees, and the president of the Northwest Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
In addition to business and civic support, organized labor at all levels stands behind the Gateway project. State and regional labor organizations representing more than 430,000 workers throughout Washington State have endorsed the project. In August the Washington State Labor Council passed three resolutions in favor of the project with near unanimous support.
National AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said "The privately backed project provides a tremendous opportunity to increase the nation's port infrastructure with minimal adverse environmental impact, and to create hundreds upon hundreds of good-paying jobs that cannot be missed."
There are many reasons for support - jobs, tax revenues, economic growth, the trains are coming anyway - but we are united in wanting this investment in our county's future.
Gateway supporters may be quieter than opponents, but rest assured, we are the majority.
John Munson of Bellingham is a retired longshoreman with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 7.