Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Judge Extends Portland Labor Injunction

A federal judge has indefinitely extended his previous order mandating that members of a labor union involved in a dispute with marine terminal management not engage in a work slowdown at the Port of Portland.

In his July 19 order, U.S. District Judge Michael Simon ruled that the no-slowdown injunction against the International Longshore and Warehouse Union should stay in effect until the National Labor Relations Board rules on allegations that longshoremen staged slowdowns and made threats against terminal operator ICTSI Oregon.

The previous order banning slowdowns, which Simon issued July 3, expired after 10 days. The new order however, is indefinite; the NLRB could take months to issue a ruling on the charges.

Also on July 19, Judge Simon cleared the ILWU against allegations that it had not adhered to the terms of his July 3 anti-slowdown injunction. The NLRB filed a motion July 6, asking Simon to find the union in contempt of court for not complying with an order the judge issued July 3 barring the union members from “engaging in slowdowns, stoppages, withholding of services, or threatening, coercing or restraining ICTSI Oregon Inc., or any other person engaged in commerce.”

But in his ruling, the judge said that although some longshoremen may have worked at a slower than normal speed at the port’s Terminal 6 while unloading a German container ship the day following the order, those dockworkers may not have gotten word of the injunction barring slowdowns.

The labor dispute’s origins go back to earlier this year, when the ILWU began insisting that its contract with the Pacific Maritime Association requires the terminal operator to hire longshore workers to handle the plugging and unplugging of refrigerated containers, work that until recently had been performed by another union, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Although the ILWU has denied an orchestrated slowdown, work productivity began noticeably slowing down at Terminal 6 in June.

The next containership at Portland is due to arrive on Aug. 4.