Tuesday, August 26, 2014

ILWU Ratifies PNW Grain Agreement

By Mark Edward Nero

International Longshore & Warehouse Union members who load grain at Pacific Northwest export terminals have voted to ratify a new collective bargaining agreement with several multinational grain companies.

The vote included members of ILWU Local 8 in Portland, Oregon, Local 4 in Vancouver, Washington, Local 21 in Longview, Washington, Local 19 in Seattle and Local 23 in Tacoma, Washington, who collectively voted 88.4 percent in favor of a tentative agreement with Louis Dreyfus Commodities, United Grain Corp. and Columbia Grain that will be in effect until May 31, 2018.

The agreement between the union and Pacific Northwest Grain Companies was reached just before midnight on August 11 and the union conducted its membership vote in the following days.
According to the union, 1,475 of its members were in favor of the contract, while 193 voted against.

Negotiations for the new agreement began in August of 2012, involved 70 separate sessions and included lockouts at Portland’s Columbia Grain and Vancouver’s United Grain facilities. Exact terms of the agreement haven’t been revealed, but include work rule changes and wage increases over the life of the agreement.

In May 2013, Columbia Grain, which is owned by Japanese trader Marubeni Corp, locked out its unionized workforce, claiming that ILWU members were engaging in a work slowdown at its Port of Portland terminal. Similarly, United Grain indefinitely locked out its union dockworkers in February 2013.

However, with a contract now ratified, ILWU members are expected to resume their jobs at the locked-out facilities on Wednesday, August 27. All picketing has ceased, and the parties have agreed to drop all pending NLRB and other legal actions associated with the dispute.

“Bargaining was difficult, but in the end, both sides compromised significantly from their original positions, resulting in a workable collective bargaining agreement that preserves the work of the ILWU-represented workforce and fosters stability for the export grain industry,” the union said in a statement regarding the vote.