International Longshore and Warehouse Union grain workers who have been locked out of the United Grain terminal in Vancouver, Wash., since Feb. 27 brought their fight north this week by gaining the support of ILWU Canada workers in Prince Rupert.
Three ILWU Canada locals held an informational picket in Prince Rupert to protest the arrival of the vessel King Felipe, which was partially loaded earlier in the week by non-ILWU labor at the United Grain terminal in Washington state. The Canadian dockworkers, however, finished loading the vessel Tuesday.
United Grain on Feb. 27 locked out ILWU Local 4 after the union rejected the employers’ final contract offer. Employers at the time said Local 4 workers were welcome to return to work if they accepted the company’s final offer.
United Grain is a member of the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers’ Association, which represents a half-dozen grain elevators in Oregon and Washington. The employers said they need a contract that puts their facilities on a par with two other terminals in the region that had negotiated contracts with the ILWU judged to be more favorable to employers.
ILWU grain workers in the U.S. have held a series of informational pickets in the Pacific Northwest. They say the grain terminals in the region have had a long and prosperous relationship with the ILWU, whose members have worked at their facilities for more than 80 years.
ILWU Canada leaders said at the rally in Prince Rupert that they are concerned because employer lockouts in the U.S. could potentially migrate north. Nevertheless, they agreed to load grain onto the vessel because the grain was grown in Canada and they did not want local workers to be punished by their actions.
Grain workers on the U.S. West Coast have a different contract than longshoremen who handle containers. The ILWU coastwide container contract is in effect until July1, 2014. ILWU Canada longshoremen likewise have their own contracts that are separate from ILWU contracts in the U.S.