Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Judge: Longview Port and Grain Operator Labor Dispute Should Go to Arbitration

A federal judge on Friday said that a contentious lease dispute between the Port of Longview and tenant EGT Development, that has led to months of protests by union dockers, should be decided by a labor arbitrator.

EGT, which operates a new $200 million grain export facility at the port, is suing the port over language in its lease. The port claims that the lease binds EGT to use International Longshore and Warehouse Union workers to staff the facility. EGT disputes the port's interpretation of the lease language.

Earlier this year, as it prepared to bring the grain facility online, EGT contracted with a third party to provide staffing. The third party hired members of a different union, which led to ILWU protests that have seen hundreds of union members arrested and led to tens of thousands of dollars in property damage.

District Court Judge Ronald Leighton told attorneys for the port and EGT that a labor arbitrator should rule on the lease language. He has asked the two sides to offer their suggestions on how to move forward.

Judge Leighton said it was clear that during the discussions formulating the lease, both the port and EGT were aware of the ILWU labor exclusivity language, but each side wanted to reach a lease agreement while deferring the labor questions for later.