The International Longshore and Warehouse Union prepared to file suit Thursday against the Port of Portland and its executive director, charging the port violated federal and state law by agreeing to reimburse terminal operator ICTSI for losses incurred from ILWU job actions.
Shipping lines in June diverted vessels from Portland when the ILWU allegedly engaged in work slowdowns. Productivity at Terminal 6 plunged, and long truck lines formed at the terminal gate.
ICTSI operates the facility, which is Portland’s only container terminal. ICTSI hired members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers to handle refrigerated containers at Terminal 6. The ILWU claims jurisdiction over that work.
The Portland Port Commission in July approved a reimbursement of “tens of thousands of dollars” to shipping lines that were forced to divert vessels to other ports during the slowdowns. The commission on Aug. 8 authorized an expenditure of up to $4.7 million for measurable economic losses during the work slowdowns.
In the lawsuit, the ILWU will charge that reimbursement of economic losses to ICTSI and shipping lines violate federal law “because the gifting improperly interferes with and alters the economic tools and pressures between labor and management, which are regulated exclusively by federal law.”
The ILWU charges the port is violating the Oregon Constitution, which states that no county or municipal corporation, such as a port, can raise money for or loan money to any company, corporation or association.
The lawsuit in the federal court in Portland seeks an injunction barring the port authority from giving public money to ICTSI or to shipping lines. An ILWU spokesperson said the lawsuit was expected to be filed Thursday afternoon.
Port spokesman Josh Thomas said the port’s attorneys have not yet seen the lawsuit and therefore the port is unable to comment on the charges.
The ILWU and IBEW had reached an interim agreement that allowed ILWU members to plug, unplug and monitor refrigerated containers at Terminal 6 until the National Labor Relations Board ruled on the jurisdictional issue. Earlier this week, the NLRB ruled the reefer work belongs to the IBEW, and its members have since replaced the ILWU in performing that work.