Contract disagreements between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and grain terminals in the Pacific Northwest accelerated over the weekend as Columbia Grain in Portland became the second facility where management locked out union workers.
The United Grain terminal in Vancouver, Wash., locked out ILWU workers in February, charging that a union official who was working at the terminal had sabotaged equipment.
Both terminals are members of the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Association, which represents a half-dozen export facilities in Oregon and Washington. After months of negotiations last year for a new contract, the grain handlers association made its last offer, which was overwhelmingly rejected by the union. The terminals then implemented the contract.
ILWU workers since December have been employed at Columbia Grain in Portland under the grain handlers association’s last, best and final contract offer. The company charged that the ILWU workers since then have been engaging in “inside game tactics” that include slowdowns, work-to-rule actions and making repeated requests to examine the same equipment.
Columbia Grain management said a lockout was the best move for the company. “The decision was not made lightly,” the company stated.
As was the case with United Grain in Vancouver, Columbia Grain said the contract offer it made to the union includes good pay and benefits for the workers, and ensures competitive work rules and practices for the company.
The grain companies said they needed a grain contract similar to the ones the ILWU signed in recent years with two other terminals in the region, EGT and Kalama Export Co. The Grain Handlers Association’s contract offer allows the member companies to compete on a level playing field with EGT and Kalama, the companies stated.
The ILWU has stated all along that it has worked at grain terminals in the region for more than 80 years under contracts that protected the rights of the union workers while allowing the grain companies to earn strong profits.