Judge Orders Longshore Union to Stop Disrupting
A federal administrative law judge has issued an outspoken decision directing longshore union leaders to stop disrupting operations at the Port of Portland's container terminal and to quit seeking work there that doesn't belong to them.
William Schmidt's 52-page decision comes down squarely on the side of the Port and its terminal operator, saying that union electricians -- not longshore workers -- are entitled to plug, unplug and monitor refrigerated containers known as reefers. The National Labor Relations Board judge found that longshoremen engaged in numerous unfair labor practices and during one 10-day period "orchestrated a systematic sabotage" of terminal operator ICTSI Oregon Inc.'s operations at Terminal 6. The decision was issued Wednesday.
The longshore union issued a statement Thursday that said it would appeal the decision because it was based on a "grossly flawed assumption that the Port controls the disputed work of monitoring refrigerated containers." The evidence and the law make clear, the union statement said, the work is under the control of "the employers of International Longshore and Warehouse Union members, including the steamship carriers."
Continuing arguments and legal proceedings over the work at the North Portland container yard have snarled freight and caused cargo vessels at times to bypass Portland.
The Port of Portland supported the judge's decision, according to a statement issued by Bill Wyatt, executive director of the Port. Schmidt's findings that the work slowdowns are illegal, Wyatt said, represent the first comprehensive consideration of complex issues. "Terminal 6 plays a vital role in insuring global market access to a wide variety of local and regional businesses and we remain committed to doing everything we can to see that it remains viable."
Schmidt rebuffed the International Longshore and Warehouse Union at every legal turn. He issued a recommended order directing the San Francisco-based union and its locals to halt slowdowns and work stoppages and to quit threatening to shut down ICTSI.
The judge told the ILWU to stop filing grievances and lawsuits against ICTSI and shipping companies in order to force them to cease doing business with the Port or to assign the reefer work to longshoremen. He said the work belongs to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
Schmidt's recommended order directs the longshoremen to clearly post notices for 60 days at their Portland and San Francisco offices admitting they violated federal labor law. The notices, whose text he provided, would commit the union to cease threats, slowdowns and stoppages and filing grievances and suits concerning the work in Portland.
A longshore union spokeswoman said late Wednesday she was not aware of Schmidt's decision. Furnished with a copy, she said the union would have to review the decision before commenting.
Schmidt took a year to issue his decision on the convoluted matter, having heard the case between July 31 and Aug. 29, 2012. He called the labor dispute "highly complex and very technical." He said that longshore union locals were "concerned with technological advances that imperil the livelihood of their members."
An administrative law judge's decision and recommended order can be appealed to the National Labor Relations Board in Washington, D.C.
Judge Michael Mosman Throws Out Ruling that Gave Port of Portland Jobs to Electricians Instead of Longshoremen by Richard Read, The Oregonian, 6/17/13
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