International Longshore and Warehouse Union sympathizers attempted to block a grain vessel from being loaded at an export terminal in Kalama, Wash., making this the third incident in recent weeks in an ongoing feud between the ILWU and grain companies in the Pacific Northwest.
In this week’s event, ILWU sympathizers piled into nine boats for what they called an “informational picket” on the Columbia River, but the incident became a possible violation of the law when one of the boats moved inside the Coast Guard’s 200-mile safety zone near the Kalama terminal.
Coast Guard officers boarded the boat, and all nine of the boats then dispersed. It was not yet determined on Wednesday if a fine would be issued.
The ILWU works at the Kalama terminal, and agreed to load the vessel, but only after separating grain from the Kalama terminal from grain that had been loaded previously by non-ILWU labor at the United Grain terminal in Vancouver, Wash.
The ILWU is locked out of the United Grain terminal in Vancouver and the Columbia Grain terminal in Portland following contract disputes with those facilities. The Vancouver and Columbia terminals are members of the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Association, which represents a half-dozen grain terminal in the region.
The employers group late last year gave the ILWU its final contract offer, which the union overwhelmingly rejected. United Grain in February was the first terminal to lock out the union, charging that an ILWU officer who worked at the terminal had sabotaged equipment. Columbia Grain followed last week by locking out the union, charging that the ILWU workers were engaged in slowdown activities and other actions that affected productivity at the facility.