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News / Business

Maritime union radio ads take on lockout

They allege safety, environmental risks brought on by lockout by grain companies

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian Port & Economy Reporter
Published: July 8, 2014, 12:00am

Western port talks on hold for three days

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association said in a statement late Monday that they will halt negotiations for three days on a new contract covering all West Coast ports for 72 hours to work on “an unrelated negotiation taking place in the Pacific Northwest.”

The joint statement did not name the negotiation that would be the focus of this week’s discussion.

Members of ILWU Local 4 have been locked out of the United Grain terminal in Vancouver since February of 2013.

Dockworkers also have been locked out of the Columbia Grain terminal in Portland since May 2013.

Western port talks on hold for three days

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association said in a statement late Monday that they will halt negotiations for three days on a new contract covering all West Coast ports for 72 hours to work on "an unrelated negotiation taking place in the Pacific Northwest."

The joint statement did not name the negotiation that would be the focus of this week's discussion.

Members of ILWU Local 4 have been locked out of the United Grain terminal in Vancouver since February of 2013.

Dockworkers also have been locked out of the Columbia Grain terminal in Portland since May 2013.

During the break in the West Coast contract talks that will continue through Friday, the parties said they have agreed to extend the previous six-year contract, which expired this past week. The PMA and ILWU are negotiating a new contract covering nearly 20,000 Longshore workers at 29 West Coast ports.

During the break in the West Coast contract talks that will continue through Friday, the parties said they have agreed to extend the previous six-year contract, which expired this past week. The PMA and ILWU are negotiating a new contract covering nearly 20,000 Longshore workers at 29 West Coast ports.

Two maritime unions said Monday they’ve launched a radio ad campaign to focus attention on what they say are safety and environmental risks to the Columbia and Willamette rivers brought on by a lockout of union dockworkers by two grain companies.

The ads, paid for by the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots and the Inlandboatmen’s Union, say United Grain Corp. at the Port of Vancouver and Columbia Grain in Portland are “using inexperienced crews to move cargo” on the Columbia and Willamette rivers.

The maritime unions say they’re joined by environmentalists in running the ad campaign, which also urges listeners to sign an online petition, www.SaveNWrivers.com.

The ad campaign, which launched July 4 and runs through Friday, comes amid a nearly two-year-long contract dispute between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and Northwest grain terminal operators. The conflict intensified in February 2013, when United Grain locked out 44 dockworkers. In May 2013, Columbia Grain froze out 50 to 75 Longshore workers at its Portland terminal.

The maritime unions, which represent tugboat captains and crews, are honoring picket lines maintained by the ILWU. That means they aren’t moving cargoes for the companies. In their absence, United Grain and Columbia Grain “have called in a fly-by-night tug and towboat operator using questionable equipment and tugboat personnel with no prior experience on the Columbia and Willamette rivers,” Alan Cote, president of the Inlandboatmen’s Union, said in a news release. “Unqualified boat operators jeopardize the safety of commerce on our rivers and invite an environmental disaster.”

In an email to The Columbian Monday, Pat McCormick, spokesman for the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Association, whose membership includes United Grain, issued the following statement: “The independent companies operating tugs and moving barges on the Columbia for (United Grain) and other shipping terminals must operate in full compliance with U.S. Coast Guard licensing and regulations for safe transport on the river. We’re unaware of any incident posing danger on the river other than an incident last September when unidentified vandals set a grain barge adrift from its mid-river mooring into the shipping channel. Police investigated but, to our knowledge, no arrests were made.”

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Columbian Port & Economy Reporter