Friday, August 9, 2013

ILWU Sues Port of Portland Over Public Records

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union revealed on August 7 that it has filed a lawsuit against the Port of Portland, alleging numerous ongoing violations of the Oregon Public Records Act.

The lawsuit, filed in Multnomah County circuit court on July 25, outlines public records requests submitted by the union in June, September and December of 2012. According to the union, the port responded to the requests by sending the union an “arbitrary and excessive estimate” of about $200,000 – to be paid upfront -- to identify and locate the requested records.

The $200,000 quote covered only what the port labeled as ‘first phase’ costs and did not include ‘second phase’ costs of attorney and paralegal fees to review and segregate records between exempt and non-exempt information before production of any documents, the union’s lawsuit contends.

Also according to the ILWU, the port asserted it could not provide an estimate of such ‘second phase’ fees other than to say that it could be a substantial amount.

The lawsuit maintains that the port’s treatment of the ILWU’s public records requests were “motivated by discrimination, retaliation and hostility against” the union because of the ILWU’s participation in ongoing litigation involving the port.

“Oregonians have a right to know whether the Port of Portland is irresponsibly managing the biggest public port in our state,” ILWU Coast Committeeman Leal Sundet, a member of ILWU Local 8 in Portland, said. “The port’s lack of transparency is inexcusable.”

In its legal filing, the union asks for, among other things, that the court issue an order declaring the port’s handling of the union’s public records requests to be neglectful, in bad faith, and in violation of the Oregon Public Records Act.

The union also asks that the court order the port to waive or substantially reduce its fees and compel the port to produce to the ILWU the records requested in June, September and December 2012.

The Port of Portland has responded to the lawsuit by saying it has abided by state public records law and that the high fees were due to the broad scope of the information requests, which the port estimates would take hundreds of hours and a large allocation of port resources to compile.

The port says it eventually lowered the $200,000 preliminary quote to $50,000 and offered to set up a payment plan, an offer the union has yet to respond to.

The union has been seeking port records as part of an ongoing labor dispute involving contract negotiations with a Port of Portland grain handling terminal.