The National Labor Relations Board’s regional director filed an unfair-labor-practices charge against the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, saying the ILWU slowed work at the Port of Portland, Ore., in a jurisdictional dispute with another union.
The action cleared the way for a temporary restraining order against the ILWU, with a possible injunction to follow if problems continue. The ILWU said it would fight the charges. The NLRB has scheduled an Aug. 14 hearing.
The NLRB charge followed complaints by ICTSI Oregon and the Port of Portland, which during the last two weeks has been hit with delays that have caused truck backups up to a mile long.
Ronald K. Hooks, director of the NLRB’s regional office in Seattle, said the longshore union engaged in slowdowns after ILWU Coast Committeeman Leo Sundet threatened to make ICTSI Oregon “pay the price” if the company didn’t hire ILWU labor to plug in, unplug and monitor refrigerated containers at Portland’s Terminal 6.
The work has been performed by members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers since Terminal 6 opened in the early 1970s. When the port signed a 25-year lease with ICTSI last year, the lease specified that the IBEW would retain the work.
The ILWU contends its contract with the Pacific Maritime Association requires ICTSI to hire ILWU labor. The ILWU and PMA have asked a federal court to issue an injunction to give the work to the longshore union.
The NLRB’s unfair-labor-practices complaint detailed a series of ILWU slowdown tactics. They included simultaneous coffee breaks, slow driving of reach-stacking cranes, a crane operator refusing to enter the crane for 30 minutes because of diesel fumes, ILWU clerks and planners refusing to tell IBEW electricians when reefer boxes were arriving, and parking a pickup truck where it would block access to stacks of reefer units.
The ILWU has denied engaging in slowdowns. “The NLRB complaint includes one-sided allegations, based on ICTSI’s version of events, that have not yet been tested by a judge of any kind,” Sundet said in an e-mail.
Port Director Bill Wyatt said the number of workers who plug, unplug and monitor reefer boxes is based on activity at the terminal but that over a year they average the equivalent of two full-time jobs.