NLRB: Longshore Union "Coerced" Terminal Operator

Terminal 6 (Port of Portland)

By The Maritime Executive 11-16-2017 04:40:12

The D.C. circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals has upheld two decisions from the National Labor Relations Board, which found in 2015 that the International Longshore and Warehouse Union "engaged in . . . coercive conduct against terminal operator ICTSI Oregon.” NLRB determined that the ILWU had organized slowdowns at ICTSI’s Portland terminal in order to force the Port of Portland to give longshoremen the work of plugging and unplugging reefers – a task normally assigned to the Port’s union electricians, IBEW Local 48. 

"By inducing and encouraging, since September 2012, longshoremen employed by ICTSI Oregon, Inc. at the Port of Portland to unnecessarily operate cranes and drive trucks in a slow and nonproductive manner, refuse to hoist cranes in bypass mode, and refuse to move two 20-foot containers at a time on older carts, in order to force or require ICTSI and carriers who call at terminal 6 to cease doing business with the Port, Respondents ILWU and Local 8 have engaged in unfair labor practices affecting commerce,” the NLRB found in 2015.

Terminal 6 was once a valuable resource for Oregon's exporters, notably its farmers. Soon after ICTSI took over management of T6 in 2011, the ILWU’s struggle with the port and with the IBEW led to a series of legal actions and work slowdowns. Thanks in part to the disruption, Hapag-Lloyd and (now-defunct) Hanjin Shipping took their business to other ports, and in May of 2016 the terminal lost its sole remaining container service. ICTSI Oregon gave up its lease on T6 in February 2017 and agreed to pay the Port of Portland $12 million, along with an in-kind transfer of $10 million in equipment. Trucking boxes to ports out of state is estimated to cost Oregon's exporters millions of dollars per year. 

The port's relationship with its longshoremen will soon face a new test: following a personal appeal from Oregon Governor Kate Brown, Hong Kong-based Swire Shipping has agreed to begin calling at Terminal 6 in January with a once-a-month container ship rotation. Keith Leavitt, port chief commercial officer, told the Capital Press that Port of Portland has worked out its problems with the ILWU and will be ready. “We’re in a very good spot of cooperation with labor. We look forward to proving that out,” he said.