The International Longshore and Warehouse Union vowed to maintain its pickets at a newly built grain terminal in Longview, Wash., despite a temporary restraining order issued by a federal judge in Tacoma.
U.S. District Court Judge Ronald B. Leighton issued the temporary restraining order in response to a request from the National Labor Relations Board, which charged the ILWU with using unfair labor practices and harassment of workers at the EGT facility in Longview.
EGT has completed construction of the $200 million facility but has yet to ship any grain. EGT earlier this year began negotiating with the ILWU to man the terminal, but later cut off negotiations and signed an agreement with General Construction Co. to staff the terminal. General Construction contracts with a different union.
The ILWU, which represents longshoremen at most West Coast ports, has a contract with the Port of Longview to represent workers there, the union stated. The ILWU has been demonstrating at the EGT terminal since July. Union protestors in July blocked a BNSF Railway train from bringing grain to the terminal for a test run. BNSF has not sent any trains to the EGT terminal since then.
The NLRB joined the fray last week, charging union picketers have engaged in harassment and misconduct.
The labor board went to court for a temporary restraining order. Judge Leighton granted the TRO, which only lasts for 10 days. A hearing is scheduled for Thursday, when the judge will determine if the restraining order should be made permanent.
ILWU spokesman Craig Merrilees in San Francisco said the union is confident that when the facts are heard the judge will determine that despite what the NLRB charges, the union picketers were exercising their free speech rights and did not engage in prohibited activities.
Merrilees termed the NLRB process “frustrating,” saying the board responds quickly to employer complaints but much more slowly to complaints from workers.
In a statement Tuesday, local ILWU representative Jennifer Sargent in Longview said Judge Leighton’s ruling was actually a victory for the union because EGT and the NLRB sought a number of restrictions but the court is only narrowly restricting picketing activities at the terminal. The EGT chief executive could not be reached for comment.
Judge Leighton is also reviewing arguments from EGT, the Port of Longview and the ILWU on the validity of the agreement between the port and the union assigning jurisdiction over longshore jobs in Longview to the ILWU. Those documents are due Sept. 23. Both sides asked the judge to issue a summary judgment, but he is under no timeline for issuing his ruling.