By Don McIntosh
Federal district court judge Michael Simon says the evidence did not support a jury’s finding that International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) caused $93.6 million in damages to shipping terminal operator ICTSI. “$19,061,248 is the maximum amount sustainable by the proof,” Simon wrote in his March 5 decision.
The case dated back to 2012, when ILWU members began a slowdown at Portland Terminal 6. The National Labor Relations Board ruled that the slowdown was intended to pressure the Port of Portland to give ILWU jurisdiction over two jobs plugging and unplugging refrigerated containers, work that IBEW members had done since 1974. That made the slowdown an illegal “secondary” action, and meant that terminal operator ICTSI could sue ILWU for damages.
But Simon determined that an expert witness for ICTSI grossly inflated the slowdown’s economic harm, by inflating ICTSI’s baseline shipping volume, and assuming ICTSI would have been able to raise prices per container and increase shipping volume.
The final $19 million in damages includes $7.6 million in lost productivity and shipping volume while the slowdown was under way, plus $11.5 million that ICTSI had to pay the Port when it broke its lease and ceased operations in 2017.
ICTSI can either accept the lower amount or be granted a new trial under Simon that would focus solely on determining the right amount of damages. The company had until March 19 (after this issue went to press) to decide. If it accepts the reduced amount, ILWU would have 30 days to decide whether to pay it, appeal the decision, or file for bankruptcy.
The $19 million figure would be a heavy burden for ILWU. It’s more than twice the union’s current total assets of $8 million, and would amount to $494 for each of 38,450 members.