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Judge to Hear Portland ILWU Case Friday

by Joseph Bonney
Journal of Commerce, June 21, 2012

NLRB seeks order to prohibit labor slowdowns at port

(Ross William Hamilton) Terminal 6, usually stacked full of containers, has relatively few boxes waiting for shipping abroad, as steamship lines bypass Portland because of labor disputes. A federal judge will hear arguments Friday on a National Labor Relations Board request for a court order prohibiting the International Longshore and Warehouse Union from slowing operations at the Port of Portland, Ore.

At least two ships have been reported diverted to Oakland to avoid delays blamed on an ILWU dispute with an electricians' union over a handful of jobs involving refrigerated containers at Portland's Terminal 6.

The NLRB case follows a labor board complaint that the ILWU has engaged in unfair labor practices.

The NLRB's litigation is separate from a lawsuit filed last week by the ILWU and the Pacific Maritime Association against ICTSI Oregon, the terminal operator. The ILWU and PMA contend their coastwide contract requires ICTSI, a PMA member, to hire longshore union members to plug in, unplug and monitor reefer containers at the port.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers has done the work since Terminal 6 opened in the early 1970s. When the port privatized the terminal and signed a 25-year lease with ICTSI last year, the lease specified the IBEW would retain the work.

ICTSI and port officials contend their lease's job guarantee trumps the ILWU-PMA coastwide contract. The Portland Oregonian reported that the electricians' union has threatened to picket the terminal if it loses the work.

In another thread to the dispute, an ILWU-PMA coast arbitrator issued a ruling this week directing the ILWU to "cease and desist from illegal work stoppages and any job action at the Terminal 6 facility in Portland."

The union said it would ask the arbitrator, John Kagel, to reconsider the ruling. The ILWU denies engaging in slowdown, and has blamed mechanical problems for a decline in productivity that has forced truckers to wait several hours in lines up to a mile long.

The NLRB's unfair-labor-practice complaint accuses the ILWU of slowing work through tactics such as simultaneous coffee breaks, slow driving of reach-stacking cranes, refusing to tell IBEW electricians when reefer boxes were arriving, and parking a pickup truck where it would block access to stacks of reefer units.

Port Director Bill Wyatt said the number of workers who plug in, unplug and monitor reefer boxes is based on activity at the terminal but that over a year they average the equivalent of two full-time jobs.

Joseph Bonney
Judge to Hear Portland ILWU Case Friday
Journal of Commerce, June 21, 2012

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