By Erik Olson of the Daily News:
Port of Longview commissioners Friday signed off on a settlement with EGT Development and union dock workers. The pact provides a framework for longshoremen to work inside the $200 million grain terminal and end one of the area’s longest, angriest labor disputes in decades.
EGT and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union still have not signed a labor contract, but both sides agreed on the settlement before submitting it to port commissioners, according to port attorney Frank Randolph. Rank-and-file ILWU members approved the agreement Tuesday, according to the union.
The agreement, announced by Gov. Chris Gregoire Monday, effectively settles a federal lawsuit between EGT and the port over labor requirements at the terminal and halts past claims from the dispute.
• EGT recognizes that workers from ILWU’s Longview-based Local 21 are the most qualified employees to run the terminal, and all workers must be dispatched from the Local 21 hall. Those workers must then vote on whether they wish to be represented by the ILWU. The provision is a way to avoid violating federal labor law, which prohibits companies from designating a union before it even hires a work force.
• All workers must have at least one year of grain-handling experience, come from a pool of employees pre-authorized by EGT and be available when ships and trains are called. EGT won’t be mandated to keep workers on the job even if there is no grain to move.
• Both sides must drop all unfair labor practice claims and other litigation. The ILWU would still be responsible for damages incurred during last summer’s protests, which a federal judge determined was more than $300,000. The union has appealed the amount.
• The Port of Longview amended its lease agreement with EGT so the company is not bound to hire members from any union to work in the terminal. Union negotiators agreed to this stipulation so they can move forward with collective bargaining, according to Randolph.
• The ILWU must request all outside groups, including other labor unions and the Occupy movement, to refrain from picketing at EGT. The Occupy movement and Cowlitz Wahkiakum Central Labor Council had called for mass pickets of the first incoming ship to load grain at the EGT terminal, which is expected within the next few weeks. The union is allowed to resume its picket if collective bargaining talks break down.
“It’s a relief that this taking place, and that we can get back to doing what we do best — servicing ships and making a lot of money for the community,” Port Commissioner Bob Bagaason said.
In a written statement, ILWU Coast Committeeman Leal Sundet said, “Today’s developments are a positive signal that the relationship between ILWU Local 21 and EGT is moving in the right direction.”
At Friday’s meeting at the port office, three ILWU Local 21 members were in the audience along with Jerry Gibson, manager of the EGT terminal, marking one of the first times both sides have been at the same public event since the conflict began.
“It’s been a rough last year, and hopefully we will get to go forward and get to something new. We’re excited about what’s happening here in Longview, and we’re a part of it. And sorry for some of the hard feelings,” Local 21 Vice President Jake Whiteside told commissioners.
Gibson referred all comments to EGT CEO Larry Clarke, who did not return a message for comment.
A year ago, early talks between EGT and the ILWU broke off because the two sides were far apart on jobs in the control room, overtime pay and the total number of shift workers. The conflict escalated and led to hundreds of arrests, efforts to block EGT-bound trains and occasional violence.
The union has argued that its contract with the Port of Longview had required EGT to hire Longview-based Local 21 longshore labor on its 35-acre site leased from the port. EGT disagreed and instead hired contractor General Construction, which employed union operating engineers based out of Gladstone, Ore. EGT officials have not said whether they will continue to employ General.