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Nov. 30, 2022

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4 unfair labor practice complaints filed against Port of Olympia, union official says

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OLYMPIA — Four unfair labor practice complaints have been filed against the Port of Olympia with the state Public Employment Relations Commission, a union official said Monday.

Jon Brier confirmed what was behind some of the worker angst that was vented at the Port of Olympia commission meeting Monday.

Brier is an organizer with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, and he has been working with the newest bargaining unit at the port, Local 47-B.

Local 47 represents dockworkers at the port and Local 47-A covers marine terminal maintenance workers.

And now Local 47-B covers all full-time and regular part-time employees performing maintenance, technical services or operations in facilities maintenance, Swantown Boatworks and Swantown Marina departments at the port, according to information previously shared with The Olympian.

Local 47-B was formed last December and was certified in the spring by the state Public Employment Relations Commission, Brier said. At the time of certification, it covered 17 workers.

But it hasn’t been an easy relationship with the port so far, finally resulting in the four complaints, Brier said. He said they stem from the following:

  • Port employees who identified with the union were allegedly denied overtime pay for helping to clear snow off the marine terminal.
  • Promotions and raises for port employees who identified with the union were allegedly delayed.
  • Port employees who identified with the union were allegedly not allowed to participate in a community event organized by the port.
  • A port employee who identified with the union was allegedly demoted and fired.

Workers who spoke during public comment Monday night shared their frustrations about port management.

Naomi Hagelund said she used to work at the port.

“I was retaliated against for joining the union,” she said. “I was removed from several teams and denied previously approved overtime, and I was told by multiple staff and management it was because I joined the union.

“Why does the commission not hold the managers accountable?” she asked.

Ron Manwell spoke about the employee who was allegedly demoted and fired.

“I’ve seen bad management before and this reeks of it,” he said.

Deb Pattin, who serves on the port’s citizens advisory committee and who typically comes across as a port booster, struck a different tone on Monday. She said the port is short-staffed and that “settling the contract should be of the utmost priority.”

She also continues to hear about low morale at the port, Pattin said.

Lee Rose said the new union was certified in April but it took four months before they had their first bargaining session with the port.

“We are living in serious times, but we have unserious people in our executive positions here at the port,” Rose said.

He urged the port to “start a new era of accountability and not broken trust.”

Port commissioners on Monday could not speak to the negotiation process, and it wasn’t clear whether they were aware of the four labor complaints.

But Commissioner Amy Evans Harding said they continue to hold port Executive Director Sam Gibboney accountable.

“We are setting clear expectations of what success looks like and we are measuring that,” she said. “We don’t manage the managers; the commission manages Sam and she manages the rest of the team. And we all take very seriously where we’re at and improving where we’re at from a culture perspective.”

“We hear you, we’re working on it,” she added.

Commissioners Joe Downing and Bob Iyall responded with some general thoughts.

“We have been briefed as we go along, and I look forward to a resolution in the near future of those negotiations,” Downing said.

“From what little I know of what’s going on, I am certain if you all buckle down and work together we can get this done,” Iyall said.

Rose wasn’t happy with that comment and he said so off camera.

“That’s the problem, Bob. How little you guys really know.”

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