The county prosecutor in Vancouver, Wash., will not file charges against a longshoreman accused of intentionally damaging machinery at the United Grain export terminal, a charge that earlier this year led to the lockout of 44 members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, and demonstrations that continue to this day.
The Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s office at the weekend said a surveillance film produced by the company was of poor quality and could not be used to conclusively identify the person who allegedly poured sand into the gearbox of the machinery on Dec. 22.
The ILWU for more than a year has been involved in a bitter contract dispute with grain terminals in Washington and Oregon. Employers, represented by the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Association, want a contract with terms that are similar to those that the ILWU agreed to in contracts with two other grain terminals in the region.
Union representatives said the terminals for decades have operated profitably under contracts with terms the ILWU is offering.
Each terminal is responding in its own way, with United Grain deciding to lock out the ILWU on Feb. 27 and replace the longshoremen with non-union workers.
ILWU spokeswoman Jennifer Sargent said the company used the “false allegation” of sabotaging the machinery as an excuse to lock out the union, so now it is time to resume contract negotiations between United Grain and the ILWU.
The company said it remains convinced that the film shows the longshoreman was intentionally damaging the machinery, and United Grain intends to move forward with a civil suit.
The case of United Grain is one of about a half-dozen jurisdictional disputes the ILWU is engaged in at West Coast ports, with some of the disputes involving the use of non-union workers, but others involving jurisdictional battles between the ILWU and other maritime unions.