Second foreign grain handler locks out longshoremen


A second foreign-owned grain handling conglomerate operating at taxpayer-supported ports along the Columbia River has locked out its local workforce and replaced them with out-of-state workers.

On May 4, Columbia Grain, owned by Japan’s Marubeni Corporation, locked members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 8 out of their jobs at the Port of Portland’s Terminal 5. The company accused the longshore of “working to rule” and demanding too many equipment safety inspections, which was taking too much time. As many as 75 jobs daily are impacted.

The action follows the Feb. 27 lockout of members of ILWU Local 4 by Matsui-owned United Grain at the Port of Vancouver. Local 4 represents about 200 longshore workers, all of whom rotate to fill 44 jobs at the grain terminal. The company claimed its action was justified because an individual union member allegedly damaged equipment at the grain terminal two months earlier. The company says it has video evidence of the sabotage, but has yet to release it. The individual they accused was dismissed prior to the lockout.

“There is no justification for locking out the entire ILWU workforce — aside from anti-union retaliation, which is illegal,” union officials said.

ILWU Local 4 has filed unfair labor practice charges against United Grain for retaliation.

Both United Grain and Columbia Grain are part of an employer bargaining group — the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Association. The ILWU has worked under the agreement dating back to the 1930s. The agreement also covers grain terminals owned by Netherlands-based Louis Dreyfus Commodities in Portland and Seattle, and U.S.-based TEMCO elevators in Portland, Tacoma, and Kalama.

The Grain Handlers’ collective bargaining agreement expired Sept. 29, 2012, and all of the employers except TEMCO imposed a concessionary agreement in December. Despite having rejected the proposal by a 94 percent margin, longshore workers decided not to strike, and continued working under terms of the imposed contract

TEMCO, on the other hand, continued to negotiate with the union and reached an agreement that was ratified by the membership in February 2013.

The ILWU says rather than bargain to reach a fair contract, the foreign-owned grain terminal operators are locking out workers.

Bruce Holte, president of ILWU Local 8, said Columbia hired replacement workers last fall, when talks were in the early stages, indicating 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 also is 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.”

Pickets at both the Port of Portland and Port of Vancouver are hammering on how the foreign-owned companies are profiting from local taxpayer investments while ruining local union jobs that pay good wages and benefits.

A flier handed out at Port of Vancouver picket lines says Mitsui, owner of United Grain, “makes huge profits by using Washington’s public ports, highways and railroads.” It points out that a “$275 million West Vancouver Freight Access rail project allows Japan’s Mitsui to export grain shipments for record profits” and the “$178 million Columbia River channel deepening project moves Mitsui’s massive grain ships in and out of United Grain.”

Mitsui & Co. Inc. reported profits of $6.08 billion in 2012.

“It’s difficult for all of us to see our local jobs taken away and handed to workers Mitsui imported from Florida and Wisconsin,” said Cager Clabaugh, president of ILWU Local 4 and a third-generation longshoreman, who recalled how as a kid he would go to the grain terminal to watch his grandfather load grain. “We pay local taxes and spend locally, but the replacement workers take their money out-of-state.”


  1. Playing the “foreign” capitalist game is no way to win a beef in this day and age. If it were not for foreign frieght there would be very few jobs on the waterfront. What is needed is a coast wide strike to let the bosses know that the ILWU is serious about defending their jobs. Of course the labor bureuacrats “friends” of the Democratic Party will scream just like their “eneimies” in the Republican Party.
    Read some of the newspapers from 1934 and you will find the same rhetoric where the workers are “greedy” and the bosses are “losing money.” Link-up with the port truckers, other transport workers and the unemployed and stage a fight to win. You can’t win jobs in the courts or at the ballot box but only at the point of production.


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