A U.S. District Court in Portland on Thursday denied most of the requests by waterfront employers that the court take action against the International Longshore and Warehouse Union for alleged work slowdowns at the Port of Portland.
The ILWU is engaged in a jurisdictional dispute with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers over what amounts to two jobs handling refrigerated containers at Portland’s Terminal 6. The dispute and alleged ILWU work slowdowns have resulted in five vessel calls being diverted from Portland so far this summer.
Judge Michael Simon upheld an earlier preliminary injunction barring disruptive actions by the ILWU pending a ruling by the National Labor Relations Board, which last month initiated its own proceedings in this case.
However, Judge Simon refused to take action on several other motions from the port’s terminal operator, ICTSI, and the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents waterfront employers at West Coast ports.
He ruled that claims of low productivity by ICTSI, on their own, do not violate the court’s previous temporary restraining order. Leal Sundet, an ILWU coast committeeman, said this ruling is a victory for the union.
“Today’s decisions validate the ILWU’s view that longshoremen are being unfairly blamed for carriers leaving the Port of Portland in recent weeks, when the real offender is Philippines-based ICTSI, Sundet said.
Hanjin Shipping Co. has skipped three vessel calls in Portland and Hapag-Lloyd cancelled two calls since the dispute began in early June, said Port of Portland spokesman Josh Thomas. While carriers are now returning to Portland, they are still making their vessel calls on a week-to-week basis, he said.
Portland two years ago signed a lease with international terminal operator ICTSI to operate the port’s only container facility at Terminal 6. ICTSI has continued to employ IBEW workers to handle the reefer containers, as they have done since the 1970s.
The ILWU in June told ICTSI and the port authority that the reefer work falls under its jurisdiction as the ILWU performs most of the work at all West Coast ports and has done so since the 1930s. ICTSI charged that the ILWU began engaging in work slowdowns to press its point. Carriers began to cancel vessel calls when long truck lines formed at Terminal 6 and, according to ICTSI, productivity at the terminal dropped.
The PMA also initiated action against the ILWU, but Judge Simon on Thursday refused to get involved, saying the grievance machinery under the PMA-ILWU waterfront contract has not run its course.
Portland’s Thomas said this week’s rulings have not resolved the key issue in the case, which is the jurisdictional dispute between the ILWU and the IBEW.