International Longshore and Warehouse Union grain workers Monday delivered what they consider to be a “fair” contract to the offices of United Grain Corp. with the hope of ending an employer lockout that has been under way at the Vancouver, Wash., grain export terminal since Feb. 27.
“We believe it is time for the parties to return to the bargaining table and take the final steps to reach a collective bargaining agreement,” Leal Sundet, ILWU coast committeeman, stated in a letter to employers.
United Grain last month locked out the ILWU workers after what the company said was an intentional action by a union official to damage equipment at the terminal. United Grain paid more than $100,000 to repair the damage, the company stated.
The ILWU maintains that United Grain’s charges are unfounded, and that the real intention of the company was to precipitate a lockout rather than sign a contract that was similar to an agreement reached last month between the ILWU and TEMCO, another grain terminal operator in the Pacific Northwest.
Bob McEllrath, ILWU international president, led a march Monday by union members to the United Grain offices and presented a copy of the contract that the ILWU had recently negotiated with TEMCO.
The TEMCO contract “signifies the union’s commitment to reaching a deal that maintains American industry standards and working conditions while addressing the concerns that the elevator operators bring to the table,” Sundet stated in his letter.
The ILWU had contracts with six grain export terminals in Washington and Oregon. Those contracts expired on Sept. 30, 2012. The ILWU has been attempting to negotiate new contracts with the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers’ Association, the employers’ group that represents three of the terminals.
United Grain is the only terminal to lock out the ILWU during the contract dispute. Pat McCormick, a spokesman for the grain handlers association, said United Grain has been operating the terminal since the lockout using management personnel and non-union represented United Grain employees.
McCormick said employers will study the TEMCO contract, but it would have been easier for the union president to simply e-mail the contract rather than leading a march to United Grain’s offices. Now that the TEMCO contract is in hand, the employers’ group is seeking other related documentation, and after studying the paperwork, the employers will respond to the ILWU’s request to meet, he said.