Tuesday, April 2, 2013

ILWU Local Files Suit Against Grain Terminal

International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 40, which represents dockworkers in Portland, Oregon, has filed a federal lawsuit against exporter Columbia Grain of violating labor law by refusing to arbitrate a grievance.

In its suit, which was filed in Portland on March 26, Local 40 states that back on Jan. 21, it filed a grievance against Columbia Grain challenging lost work under the union’s labor contract.

The lawsuit contends that Columbia Grain, which operates the 40-acre Terminal 5 site at the Port of Portland, wrongfully stopped using union marine clerks. Also according to the complaint, a Columbia Grain attorney told the union on Feb. 7 that the company wouldn’t process the grievance it had filed against the non-usage of clerks.

The union claims the terminal operator’s actions are in violation of the federal Labor Management Relations Act, which requires employers to arbitrate grievances governed by the arbitration provisions of a collective bargaining agreement. The suit asks a judge to order the company into arbitration with the union.

The lawsuit is unrelated to the ongoing lockout of ILWU workers at the United Grain terminal in Vancouver, Washington. United Grain locked out union workers from the terminal on Feb. 27, after accusing a union official who worked there of sabotaging equipment in retaliation for contentious ongoing contract negotiations.

In that case, ILWU Local 4, which represents about 250 workers in Vancouver, Washington, has filed an unfair labor practice charge against Mitsui-United Grain Corp. for the lockout of its workforce at the Port of Vancouver USA.

The lawsuits and grievances are tied to a larger, ongoing dispute between the ILWU and three Pacific Northwest grain handlers – Columbia Grain and LD Commodities in Portland and United Grain in Vancouver, Washington – all of which locked out ILWU workers after the sabotage accusations.
The union has been involved in on-and-off contract negotiations with the grain handlers association since September 2012, but talks broke down earlier this year and no further discussions have been scheduled.