Federal Hearing to Address Impacts of Labor Dispute

On Friday afternoon, U.S. District Judge Michael Simon will hold a hearing related to the recent slowdowns and disruptions at Terminal 6 – Oregon’s only international container shipping terminal. An ongoing labor dispute has significantly reduced productivity and caused costly delays at the facility, which is managed under a 25-year lease with ICTSI Oregon.

Two unions claim jurisdiction for the same jobs at the container facility. Approximately two full-time jobs are at the heart of the matter, involving the plugging, unplugging and monitoring of refrigerated containers.

The jobs in question have been performed at Terminal 6 since the early 1970s under a collective bargaining agreement between the Port and its employees, who are members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). Another union, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), is now claiming jurisdiction for these jobs and demanding that ICTSI Oregon, the Port’s lessee at Terminal 6, hire them to perform the work.

The National Labor Relations Board held a hearing in Portland on the jurisdictional issue and that case is still in process. However, since that hearing, work slowdowns and other actions by the ILWU have caused significant truck backups, and at times effectively brought the terminal to an operational halt or near halt. In response, the Port filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board.

This charge, and similar charges brought by ICTSI Oregon, will be the subject of the federal district court hearing on Friday afternoon. The National Labor Relations Board has asked the court to issue an order restraining the ILWU from continuing these practices. For its part, the ILWU has also asked the court to award it the jurisdiction to perform the plugging, unplugging and monitoring of refrigerated containers at the terminal.

Delays at the container terminal cause a detrimental domino effect throughout the local and regional economy, impacting businesses of all sizes. This includes truckers waiting in line outside the terminal, retail stores that can’t get seasonal merchandise delivered on time, and farmers facing the added cost of transporting export cargo to other West Coast ports. Ships, cargo, and ultimately jobs could very well be diverted away from Portland as a result.

“The Port of Portland, along with ICTSI, will pursue every legal means possible to end work slowdowns and related disruptions at Terminal 6, a facility which plays a vital economic role in our region,” said Bill Wyatt, executive director for the Port of Portland. “Meanwhile, we will continue to honor our contracts with our employees and tenants.”