An International Longshore and Warehouse Union local branch has begun what it says is an informational campaign against an Oregon lumber company that has hired non-union labor to work at a new barge facility.
Members of ILWU Local 12 picketed the Southport Lumber Co.’s mill on the North Spit in the Coo’s Bay area on July 9 in response to the company hiring workers who are not union members to load and unload barges.
Southport bought the barge slip from the Port of Coos Bay in 2004 then rehabilitated it, thanks in part to a public subsidy. The rehabilitation, which now allows the facility to load and unload multiple types of cargo, was completed within the past few months.
The union says it tried to negotiate contracts with Southport, but that the company wanted to use fewer men and pay them lower wages than ILWU members would accept. It claims the protest is against “the company’s bid to undercut wages and cut staffing at a newly renovated barge slip that received $500,000 in public funds.”
“The public needs to know what is going on,” longshore spokesman Gene Sundet said. “(Southport) has been subsidized 100 percent. Now after taking public money, they are cutting jobs and wages.”
Southport Lumber has declined to comment on the matter thus far.
The dispute is the third in which the union has become embroiled within the Pacific Northwest over the past year. In January, it settled a dispute with grain terminal operator EGT in Longview, Washington over the use of ILWU at the newly-finished terminal, and it is currently fighting a jurisdictional battle with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers regarding jobs hooking and unhooking refrigerated containers at the Port of Portland’s Terminal 6.