Columbia Grain Export Terminal Locks Out
by Richard Read
A bitter labor dispute on Northwest docks escalated Saturday as Columbia Grain Inc. locked out Portland longshore workers, accusing them of obstructing exports by gaming the system.
The lockout, which began at 6 a.m. at Columbia's Port of Portland grain elevator, compounds a similar action at United Grain Corp. in Vancouver, where dockworkers have been shut out since Feb. 27.
Columbia Grain accused members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union of slowing operations at its terminal, where wheat, corn, soybeans and other U.S. commodities arrive by train and barge for loading on ships bound for Asia and beyond. On Saturday the company, owned by Japan's Marubeni Corp., employed managers and temporary workers to load a vessel as union members picketed outside.
"With bargaining stalled and the longshore workers engaging in 'inside game' tactics, including slowdowns, work-to-rule, and demands for repeated inspections of the same equipment -- all designed to negatively impact Columbia Grain's operations -- we have decided that a lockout is our best alternative," the company said in a written statement.
Columbia Grain and United Grain are members of a bargaining group pushing the longshore union for concessions to match employer-friendly working conditions at competing terminals in Longview and Kalama, Wash. Members of the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Association say that union perks, featherbedding and foot-dragging cost millions of dollars a year in a low-margin business, threatening the survival of their terminals.
By contrast, longshore union leaders depict the companies as highly profitable, foreign-owned ventures trying to squeeze local workers.
. . .
learn more on topics covered in the film
see the video
read the script
learn the songs