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ILWU Dispute Hits Port of Portland

by Joseph Bonney
Journal of Commerce, June 15, 2012

Union seeks jurisdiction over reefer jobs at terminal

A dispute between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and an electricians' union over a handful of refrigerated container jobs has slowed container operations at the Port of Portland, Ore.

The ILWU contends its contract with the Pacific Maritime Association requires ICTSI Oregon, operator of the port's Terminal 6, to hire ILWU mechanics to plug, unplug and monitor refrigerated containers.

The work has been performed by members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers since Terminal 6 opened in the early 1970s. When the port signed a 25-year lease with

ICTSI last year, the lease specified that the IBEW would retain the work.

The ILWU and the Pacific Maritime Association asked a U.S. District Court for an injunction requiring the terminal operator to hire ILWU mechanics. The lawsuit cited an arbitrator's ruling that the ILWU-PMA contract gave the longshore union jurisdiction over the work.

After the ILWU launched protests, the port filed an unfair-labor-practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board. The NLRB's Portland office ruled this week that the charge was valid, an action that cleared the way for the board to seek an injunction against the ILWU.

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

Wyatt said three decades of labor contracts have contained clauses ensuring that IBEW members will retain the jobs even if the terminal operator changes. "We are confident that our legal position is on solid ground," he said.

The ILWU argues that ICTSI's membership in the PMA requires the company to provide assurances that it was not bound by non-ILWU labor agreements.

"ICTSI is failing to follow the contract that establishes jurisdictional harmony at all West Coast ports," Leal Sundet, ILWU coast committeeman, said in a statement.

The Portland case follows a months-long jurisdictional dispute between the ILWU and the International Union of Operating Engineers at a bulk grain terminal at Longview, Wash.

Joseph Bonney
ILWU Dispute Hits Port of Portland
Journal of Commerce, June 15, 2012

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