Several members of Congress have asked U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman to use the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement talks to help resolve the months-long lockout of International Longshore and Warehouse Union grain workers in the Pacific Northwest by two Japanese grain conglomerates.
The U.S. government is one of 12 member nations meeting in Bali, Indonesia, to negotiate the free trade agreement that is expected to be concluded by the end of this year. The current round of negotiations will end on Oct. 8. The 12 countries involved in TPP negotiations are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the U.S. and Vietnam.
Both grain corporations involved in the Pacific Northwest grain lockout are based in Japan. Mitsui owns United Grain in Vancouver, Wash., which locked out members of ILWU Local 4 on Feb. 27, and Marubeni owns Columbia Grain in Portland, Ore., which locked out members of ILWU Local 8 on May 4.
In a letter dated Sept. 30, posted by Longshore and Shipping News, six congressional delegates — Reps. Jim McDermott, D-Wash.; Adam Smith, R-Wash.; Rick Larsen, D-Wash.; Suzan DelBene, D-Ala.; Denny Heck, D-Wash.; and Derek Kilmer, D-Wash. — wrote: “The continued intransigence by Marubeni and Mitsui is placing great stress on workers dependent on these facilities for their livelihoods. The lockout is negatively affecting wheat and grain farmers in the Pacific Northwest and other states that depend on grain export terminals.”
“Mitsui and Marubeni forced workers to work under a concessionary contract that had been rejected by a 94 percent union membership vote, and locked out hundreds of American workers beginning in February and May at their two U.S. facilities,” the letter stated. “Cargill/CHS continued to negotiate with the ILWU and reached a fair contract with the union that was ratified in February that protects good American jobs.”
Marubeni and Mistui did not return an e-mail seeking comment on Wednesday afternoon.