EGT, ILWU Reach Tentative Deal Over Grain Terminal

EGT, ILWU Reach Tentative Deal Over Grain Terminal

Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire brokered a tentative settlement between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and EGT that could result in the commencement of grain exports from the new terminal in Longview, Wash.

Although some details remain to be worked out, the agreement, if finalized, would resolve one of the most contentious labor issues in recent years at a West Coast port. The ILWU, which has a contract with the port, has protested EGT Development’s decision to use another union to operate the terminal.

“I asked EGT and ILWU to come together in a good faith effort to overcome their difference. Both parties should be commended for their willingness to work together and compromise,” Gregoire said.

The release from the governor’s office does not mention a contract between the ILWU and EGT. Larry Clarke, EGT’s CEO, said the tentative settlement resolves “pending legal matters between the parties and the Port of Longview.”

The port and the union maintain that the ILWU, which has represented workers at West Coast ports for the past 80 years, has the legal right to perform dock worker jobs in Longview. EGT challenged that assertion in litigation before the U.S. District Court in Tacoma.

EGT, an international joint venture that includes Bunge Corp., negotiated with the ILWU but broke off contract negotiations last spring and contracted with a company that utilizes labor supplied by the International Union of Operating Engineers.

The ILWU last summer and fall engaged in extensive picketing and demonstrations, including an effort to block a BNSF train carrying grain to the terminal. Dozens of ILWU members and their wives were arrested in the demonstrations.

The ILWU is one of the most powerful unions in the country as it supplies dock worker labor at all West Coast ports for container and grain operations. If EGT had succeeded in opening its facility without the ILWU, it would have become the only grain terminal in the Pacific Northwest to operate without ILWU labor.

Port of Longview Executive Director Ken O’Hollaren said EGT has tested its new terminal and the facility is ready in terms of infrastructure and operations to begin exporting grain as soon as the tentative agreement is finalized.

-- Contact Bill Mongelluzzo at Follow him on Twitter @billmongelluzzo.