Longshore Union Files Charges Against United Grain’s Vancouver Lockout

By Richard Reed, March 5, 2013, The Oregonian

A Vancouver longshore local has filed an unfair labor practice charge against United Grain Corp. for locking out union workers, calling the action illegal.

Longshore leaders called the lockout an “extreme measure,” taken after United Grain accused a union local official of sabotaging operations at the company’s export terminal at the Port of Vancouver.

The charge, announced Tuesday, was filed by Local 4 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, and not by the main West Coast labor organization based in San Francisco. But a news release quoted ILWU President Robert “Big Bob” McEllrath, who rose through the union ranks from Vancouver.

McEllrath’s statement and the release play up United Grain’s foreign ownership, referring to Mitsui & Co., which owns the Vancouver-based company.

“It’s shameful that Mitsui-United Grain, a Japanese corporation that’s profiting from the United States’ infrastructure, natural resources and labor, has chosen to violate our federal law instead of negotiating a fair labor agreement with its American workforce,” McEllrath said in the release.

Local 4 filed its charge Monday with the National Labor Relations Board’s regional office in Seattle. The local represents about 200 union members who load grain and other cargo at the Port of Vancouver.

A spokesman for United Grain and other companies involved in a bargaining coalition could not be reached immediately for comment.

Longshore union members have picketed at the grain export terminal since Feb. 27, when the lockout began. United Grain shut out the union after an investigator hired by the company accused a Local 4 official of pouring sand in a gearbox and sticking a pipe into a conveyer belt. The Vancouver Police Department is investigating.

Longshore leaders want United Grain to resume contract negotiations that reached an impasse, according to the company, in December. Last week the union and Temco, another grain handling company, announced they had reached a contract agreement.

“Mitsui-United Grain should stop violating the law,” McEllrath said, “end this harmful lockout, and follow the example set by its American competitors who have reached a satisfactory agreement with the men and women of the ILWU.”

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