Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Port of Longview Commissioners Ratify EGT, ILWU Deal

The Port of Longview’s three-member commission on Jan. 27 agreed to the parameters of a proposed settlement that ends a months-long battle between grain terminal operator EGT and the International Longshore & Warehouse Union.

“It’s a relief that this taking place, and that we can get back to doing what we do best – servicing ships and making a lot of money for the community,” Commissioner Bob Bagaason said.

The dispute stemmed from the company using the services of a union other than the ILWU at the terminal, which is a $200 million joint venture between Bunge Ltd, ITOCHU International and STX Pan Ocean.

Members of ILWU Local 21 had contended that its contract with the Port of Longview required that the 25 to 35 jobs inside the terminal go to ILWU labor. The company, however, said its lease agreement with the port does not specify ILWU workers, and members of Operating Engineers Local 701 had been working at the terminal.

As part of the conflict, ILWU members and supporters picketed the facility throughout last summer. During some pickets, protesters stormed the facility, cut brake lines on rail cars and dumped grain from the cars, among other things, which led to dozens of arrests on trespassing and disorderly conduct charges.

A federal trial on the dispute had been scheduled to begin in March, but on Jan. 23 the office of Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire announced that it had negotiated an agreement between the two sides.

Among the stipulations in the agreed-upon contract:
• All workers would have to be dispatched from the Local 21 union hall.
• Each worker at the terminal would be required to have at least a year of grain-handling experience.
• Both sides would drop all pending litigation, including unfair labor practice claims.
• The ILWU must request that no outside groups picket EGT.

The last stipulation is a reaction to calls from the Occupy movement and Cowlitz Wahkiakum Central Labor Council to picket the first incoming grain ship at the terminal, which is expected next month.

Notably, there’s no stipulation that relieves the ILWU from responsibility for damage inflicted at the terminal during last summer’s protests. In September, the union was ordered by a US district judge in Tacoma to pay $250,000 in compensation to EGT and local authorities for the damage caused.

The union is appealing the fines.