Dockworkers in Portland suffered a jurisdictional loss late Monday when the National Labor Relations Board ruled that jobs involving the working of refrigerated containers at the port belong to the rival electrical workers union.
Although the equivalent of only two full-time jobs are at stake, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union made a full-throttle effort to control the work of plugging, unplugging and monitoring reefer containers at the Port of Portland.
Members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers had performed that work for more than 30 years, but the ILWU this spring suddenly decided to claim the reefer work as its jurisdiction.
Employers charged that the ILWU in early June began a series of work slowdowns that crippled productivity at Terminal 6. The ILWU denied that it was engaged in slowdowns, but long truck lines formed at the terminal gate day after day, and shipping lines began to divert vessel calls to other ports.
Portland’s harbor commission last week approved a cost-sharing measure with the terminal operator, ICTSI, for lost revenue and productivity. The port will reimburse ICTSI up to $4.66 million for losses incurred since early June.
The ILWU issued a statement late Monday disputing the NLRB’s ruling and the board’s decision-making procedure. “The NLRB’s decision is not a surprise. We called it. The 10k process is far from fair and, as in the case here, is open to manipulation by companies seeking to extricate themselves from collective bargaining agreements,” said Leal Sundet, ILWU coast committeeman. Sundet said the union has not yet determined whether it will appeal.
Port of Portland spokesman Josh Thomas said the port authority’s next step is to meet with all of the parties to ensure workers will be prepared to handle two vessel calls scheduled for this weekend.
The ILWU and IBEW had reached an interim agreement under which the ILWU has been performing the reefer work while the NLRB was considering the jurisdictional issue. Now that the NLRB has ruled, the work belongs to the IBEW, although an appeal could delay the transfer of work to the electrical union.