A U.S. District Court judge in Portland ruled that the National Labor Relations Board last year had no right intervening in a contractual dispute between a container terminal operator at the Oregon port and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.
The issue involves which union, the ILWU or the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, has the jurisdiction to plug and unplug refrigerated containers at the Port of Portland.
Judge Michael Mosman on Monday ruled the NLRB violated “a clear statutory mandate” by intervening in the dispute. The ruling vacates the NLRB’s decision, although the labor board is still free to appeal the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit if it desires.
The jurisdictional dispute arose when terminal operator ICTSI took over the Port of Portland’s Terminal 6 and agreed to abide by a contractual arrangement between the port and the IBEW. The electrical workers’ union had been handling the reefer jobs since the early 1970s.
The Pacific Maritime Association, which negotiates waterfront contracts with the ILWU at West Coast ports, filed suit on Sept. 7, 2012, arguing that the NLRB impermissibly denied PMA’s motion to intervene in the IBEW, Local 48 case, and unlawfully expanded its jurisdictional reach to public-sector employees who, the PMA argued, are expressly excluded from the National Labor Relations Act by Congress.
ILWU Coast Committeeman Leal Sundet said the court’s ruling “highlights the fact that the board had no right to interject itself in this manner on behalf of ICTSI.” Sundet noted that ICTSI joined the PMA employers’ association when it took over Terminal 6 in 2010 and must therefore abide by the collective bargaining agreement between PMA and the ILWU.
Port of Portland spokesman Josh Thomas said there are other legal proceedings involved in this case, and while the litigation is being addressed, a working agreement that was put into effect last year will continue. Under that agreement, the IBEW workers will continue to plug, unplug and monitor refrigerated containers until all of the litigation is resolved.