After nearly three months of negotiations, the multinational grain corporations operating in the Columbia River and Puget Sound have given local workers a final offer that demands deep concessions from workers, even though the companies have been successful under the current agreement and impasse has not been reached in negotiations.
Negotiators for the union include member representatives from ILWU Local 8 in Portland, ILWU Local 4 in Vancouver, ILWU Local 23 in Tacoma, and ILWU Local 19 in Seattle.
“The ILWU has bargained in good faith and offered several proposals designed to meet the employers’ needs,” said Leal Sundet, ILWU Coast Longshore Division. “We want to keep the grain moving as we have done nonstop since the 1930’s. It’s unfortunate that the multinational corporations that are profiting at our ports have failed to accept the workers’ reasonable proposals to reach a fair agreement.”
The grain industry’s proposal will be reviewed and shared with the union membership before officials will comment on it. In the meantime, work is continuing under the full terms of the agreement that the union has developed with the grain elevator owners over the past 80 years and that expired on Sept. 29.
“We believe that in light of a low yielding harvest and corresponding high bushel prices, the profitable multinational grain merchants are using the circumstances to undermine a mature 80-year contract with longshoremen that’s made the Northwest one of the most productive grain export regions in the world,” said Sundet.
Various media have incorrectly stated that the union is planning to strike. No strike vote has been proposed by the union membership. A lockout, during which management would refuse to allow employees to work, differs from a strike in many ways. Lockouts are initiated by the employers.
Longshore workers represented by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union have manned all Northwest grain export terminals since the 1930’s. The collective bargaining agreement currently being negotiated covers six terminals – Louis Dreyfus in Seattle; Temco/Cargill in Tacoma; United Grain/Mitsui in Vancouver, WA; and Temco/Cargill, Louis Dreyfus, and Columbia Grain/Marubeni in Portland. All of these elevators are owned by multinational corporations, several of which are based overseas.