A labor dispute between grain handlers and longshore workers expanded Saturday when Columbia Grain Inc. announced it had imposed a lockout at its terminal in Portland.
The action against members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union follows a lockout already under way at the Port of Vancouver by United Grain since Feb. 27. The number of workers impacted by this latest lockout was not available.
Columbia Grain issued a statement early Saturday accusing workers of engaging in what it called “inside game tactics” — including slowdowns, work-to-rule, and demands for repeated inspections of the same equipment — “all designed to negatively impact Columbia Grain’s operations.”
The statement said the company has contingency plans in place and was committed to ensuring its customers remain well-served.
“We have communicated to the ILWU leadership that they need only accept that offer in order to get back to work,” the company statement said.
Columbia Grain is a member of the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Association, which includes United Grain at the Port of Vancouver.
The dockworkers’ union issued a statement condemning the lockout and playing up the foreign ownership of Columbia Grain, a division of Japan’s Marubeni company, according to reports on The Oregonian newspaper’s website.
Bruce Holte, president of ILWU Local 8, said Columbia hired replacement workers last fall, when talks were in early stages, showing that the company never intended to reach agreement.
“Unfortunately, Marubeni-Columbia Grain has done what it’s wanted to do all along, and locked out local workers who have made this company profitable for decades,” said Holte, who is also a Port of Portland commissioner. “Rather than reach a fair agreement, the company has hired an out-of-state strikebreaking firm, attorneys and a publicist to make allegations against local workers who simply want to do our jobs and support our community.”
The Oregonian reported that a dozen picketers protested peacefully outside Columbia Grain Saturday morning at the Port of Portland’s Terminal 5. Company managers and temporary workers were loading grain into the Yu Hong, an 82,000-ton Panama-flagged bulk carrier.
The union and three of four grain Pacific Northwest terminal operators failed to reach an agreement over a new labor contract after the current one expired at the end of September. The fourth terminal operator, Temco LLC — a U.S.-based operator of grain export facilities in Portland, Tacoma and Kalama — signed a contract with the ILWU in March.