U.S. lawmakers ask official to address union lockout

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Several members of Congress have asked U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman to use negotiations over a new free trade agreement to help resolve the seven-month-long lockout of union dockworkers at facilities in Vancouver and Portland, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union said in a news release Tuesday.

"The continued intransigence by Mitsui and Marubeni" — a reference to the Japanese companies that own United Grain at the Port of Vancouver and Columbia Grain in Portland, respectively — "is placing great stress on workers dependent on these facilities for their livelihoods," according to a Sept. 30 letter to Froman from six members of Congress from Washington state. "The lockout is negatively affecting wheat and grain farmers in the Pacific Northwest and other states that depend on grain export terminals."

The letter is signed by Democratic U.S. Reps. Jim McDermott, Adam Smith, Rick Larsen, Suzan DelBene, Denny Heck and Derek Kilmer.

The trade agreement referred to by the representatives is the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. Twelve nations, including the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Australia, are in talks over a deal the Obama administration hopes to finalize by the end of the year.