Judge Michael Mosman Throws Out Ruling that Gave
by Richard Read
A federal judge declared Monday that the National Labor Relations Board exceeded its authority by awarding two Port of Portland jobs to union electricians instead of longshoremen.
U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman issued an order vacating the August decision by the Washington, D.C.-based board, which found electricians were entitled to plug, unplug and monitor refrigerated containers. Problems related to the dispute at the Port's Terminal 6 led to mile-long lines of trucks last summer, causing cargo vessels to bypass Portland.
Mosman's order reopens an issue that had appeared settled, handing a well-timed victory to the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. The San Francisco-based union also represents workers who, in a separate dispute, are locked out of grain terminals in Portland and Vancouver.
Mosman's order is also a victory for the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents employers in labor negotiations with West Coast longshoremen. It complicates matters for the Port and its terminal operator, ICTSI Oregon Inc. "This is an extraordinary step for the District Court to take, and it highlights the fact that the Board had no right to interject itself in this manner on behalf of ICTSI," said Leal Sundet, a longshore union coast committeeman, in a news release. The Maritime Association had argued in a suit against the NLRB that the Board unlawfully expanded its jurisdiction to public-sector employees excluded by the National Labor Relations Act.
But Bill Wyatt, Port of Portland executive director, said the Port won't relinquish the jobs being performed by members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. "It doesn't change anything on the ground," he said.
Wyatt said that issues related to the jobs are being appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals through cases handled by U.S. District Judge Michael Simon. "It's extremely unhelpful to have two different federal judges on the same matter," Wyatt said.
William Schmidt, an administrative law judge, is also expected to weigh in, having held Portland hearings last summer on NLRB charges that the union used threats and slowdowns to give longshoremen the jobs. But Sundet said the Board should have respected a Maritime Association-ILWU dispute resolution process binding ICTSI and the union.
"As they say, it's complicated," said Ronald Hooks, regional NLRB director in Seattle. "It seems to be getting more complicated every day."
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