Last week, a federal court ruled that the International Longshore Workers Union (ILWU) bosses are guilty of engaging in “illegal work slowdowns in 2012 and 2013, potentially exposing the union to millions of dollars in damage payments.”
As a consequence of ILWU kingpins’ lawlessness and intransigence, according to Journal of Commerce Senior Editor Bill Mongelluzzo (see the link below), longshore work has disappeared and this important component of Portland, Oregon’s economy has been devastated.
As of early 2016, longshore workers in Portland were only doing one percent of the work they had been doing before, according to reporter Molly Harbarger of the Portland Oregonian.
The Port of Portland is now hoping to resume container shipping on a small scale in January, but it could take years for longshore employment to return to its 2011 level, if it ever does.
The work slowdowns by [ILWU Locals 8 and 40] involving the equivalent of two jobs set off a series of unfortunate events that resulted in the loss of all liner services at Oregon’s only container port. This created logistical hardships for importers and exporters of containerized cargo in Oregon and western Idaho, who now ship mostly through the Northwest Seaport Alliance of Seattle and Tacoma.
After Hanjin Shipping, Hapag-Lloyd, and Westwood Shipping discontinued their regular liner services due to poor productivity, . . . Portland container volumes plunged from 162,984 TEU in 2007 to 4,331 TEU in the first nine months of 2017. . . .
[Ultimately], terminal operator International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI), the target of the ILWU job actions, reached a mutual agreement with the port authority to terminate its 25-year lease at Terminal 6, Portland’s only container terminal. Nevertheless, ICTSI will play a key role in upcoming litigation when the legal battle shifts next year to the terminal operator’s claim for damages during the year-long job actions during which crane lifts dropped from the historical level of 26 container moves per hour to less than half that productivity.
The ILWU-ICTSI saga began in 2012 after Portland, which for years was an operating port, chose ICTSI to operate Terminal 6. During its many years as an operating port, Portland had contracted with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers to plug and unplug refrigerated containers. When ICTSI became the operator of Terminal 6 and a member of the coastwide employers organization, the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), the ILWU claimed jurisdiction over what amounted to two jobs handling the reefer containers.
In the legal proceedings over the past five years before the NLRB, its administrative law judge, and federal courts, the ILWU charged that ICTSI and its shipping-line customers controlled the reefer work and should decide who handled the containers. The Washington court Monday unanimously upheld the NLRB administrative law judge’s ruling that “no evidence shows that the port ever relinquished its control at any time to anyone … to perform the dockside reefer work.”
Also, the appellate court affirmed the administrative law judge’s determination “that ILWU induced or encouraged a deliberate work slowdown from September 2012 to June 2013 with the object of pressuring ICTSI and the carriers to assign dockside reefer work to ILWU-represented longshoremen.” The ILWU can appeal the decision to the US Supreme Court. The ILWU could not be reached Wednesday for comment.
Power-crazed ILWU bosses who were willing to hog-tie shipping operations in Portland to get what they wanted are certainly culpable for the job losses, but even more culpable are the politicians who decades ago instituted and today perpetuate union-boss monopoly control over employees. The “exclusive” bargaining privileges for Big Labor enshrined in federal labor law encourage abuses of power. No one should be surprised when fiascoes such as the one experienced by the Port of Portland and its dockworkers over the past half-a-decade are the result.