Jim McKenna, president of the West Coast waterfront employers group known as the Pacific Maritime Association, said the lawsuit involving the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Port of Portland “is not a straight line” that will lead to a simple resolution by a single court.
He should know, because the PMA is embroiled in the dispute even though the employers’ organization is not even a party to the lawsuit filed this week by the ILWU against the port authority.
The ILWU charges that the Port of Portland is violating state and federal law by using public money to compensate ICTSI, the operator of Portland’s Terminal 6, for losses incurred during ILWU work slowdowns this summer. Portland Executive Director Bill Wyatt said no public money would be used in the port’s cost-sharing arrangement with ICTSI.
McKenna said that when ICTSI was named terminal operator in Portland more than a year ago, it joined the PMA. Virtually all shipping lines and terminal operators at West Coast ports are members of the PMA. McKenna charged that as a PMA member, ICTSI was required to inform the employers’ organization of any contracts it had with non-ILWU workers.
At the heart of this jurisdictional dispute is the use of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers to handle refrigerated containers at Terminal 6. ICTSI should have told the PMA it was honoring the IBEW contract, McKenna said.
Wyatt said ICTSI did not violate any PMA requirement because the port authority, not ICTSI, has the contract with the IBEW. “Portland has the contract with the IBEW and has had it for 38 years,” Wyatt said.
This arrangement seems to imperil PMA member shipping lines that call at Terminal 6 and must use IBEW labor to handle the refrigerated containers. The coastwide contract between the PMA and the ILWU requires the use of ILWU labor. When the dispute surfaced in June, the managing director of one shipping line wrote Wyatt and said the use of IBEW labor was causing the line to violate the PMA-ILWU contract.
The shipping executive demanded Portland take the work from the IBEW and give it to the ILWU. “This is not a request and not open for discussion,” the executive said.
The PMA board of directors followed up on the letter several days later by threatening to charge ICTSI $50,000 a day for each day IBEW labor is used at Terminal 6. So far, however, ICTSI has not been charged.
Wyatt said the ILWU has lost all of its challenges since June before the National Labor Relations Board and the U.S. District Court in Portland, and he is confident the ILWU will lose this legal challenge against Portland.
The PMA and the ILWU, meanwhile, believe their contract, rather than the NLRB or the federal courts, has the final say over labor relations at West Coast ports.