Grain terminal operators in the Pacific Northwest on Monday rejected a contract proposal from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, setting up a union vote this weekend on an employer proposal that union leaders have already said they do not like.
“Columbia Grain, Louis Dreyfus Commodities and United Grain notified the union today they were rejecting the union’s most recent offer,” the terminals stated. The short statement said the union would present the employers’ final offer to the membership for a vote on Friday and Saturday.
Absent from the statement was Cargill, which is also a member of the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Association. That led The Oregonian to speculate that the union may have reached an agreement with Cargill.
The ILWU contract with grain terminals in Oregon and Washington expired on September 30.
Employers on Nov. 16 gave the union what it called its last, best and final offer. The union countered with its own proposal. In December, both parties agreed to federal mediation.
The employers say that in order to remain competitive in the region, they need a contract with protections similar to those contained in the contract that the ILWU signed earlier this year with the newly-opened EGT terminal in Longview, Wash.
The ILWU said its contract proposal will keep the grain terminals profitable, just as they have been profitable while using ILWU labor for the past 80 years.
“The union is disappointed that the grain merchants apparently have rejected a very fair offer that equalizes the playing field on all points that matter,” said Leal Sundet, ILWU coast committeeman.
Sundet accused the grain handlers of attempting to break the union. He said the union will present the employers’ final offer to the membership “with a unanimous recommendation from the negotiating committee to vote, ‘No.’”