October 9, 2015 – Last week, a three-judge panel at the National Labor Relations Board confirmed a 2013 administrative law judge ruling that the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 8 and Local 40 engaged in a variety of activities at Terminal 6, like slowdowns and threats to shut down operations, that violated federal labor laws.
The decision affirms the finding of unfair labor practices set against several parties were meant to influence the Port to give the ILWU jurisdiction over the dockside refrigerated container work, work that has belonged to IBEW for more than 40 years. The decision mandates the ILWU cease and desist from encouraging, threatening or participating in slow-downs, and filing grievance claims to coerce neutral third parties from working with or forcing the Port to reassign the IBEW work at the terminal. According to media reports, the ILWU has indicated it will appeal this decision, leaving open other pending legal disputes between the parties.
Keith Leavitt, Chief Commercial Officer at the Port says it is unfortunate that this affirmation was delayed because of contention that presidential NLRB judge recess appointments were invalid, an issue that went all the way to the Supreme Court in 2014. It would have been more timely to have this decision when regular container service was calling Portland.
The two largest of three container carriers, Hanjin and Hapag-Lloyd, ceased Portland service in early 2015 after productivity declined to intolerable levels. A smaller remaining carrier, Westwood Shipping, suspended its service in April, but resumed monthly calls in July.
“Nevertheless, we view this NLRB decision as an important independent review of the underlying jurisdictional dispute and appropriately confirms the Port’s right to assign reefer work to the IBEW,” Leavitt said.
The Port is working with Terminal 6 operator ICTSI to actively market the terminal for new container service to Asia, Europe and Latin America. While regional cargo volumes continue to grow and will support Portland container operations, restoring service is a complex challenge and will likely require the collaboration of the Port, ICTSI, shippers and longshore labor to be successful.
“Like ICTSI, we would like to see ILWU leave these issues behind, come back to work and rebuild business at T-6. This is a first step. The next is a common commitment by the ILWU, and terminal management to bring this terminal along with its contribution to the regional economy, back to life. Finger pointing won’t get the job done,” said Bill Wyatt, the Port of Portland’s Executive Director.