The Stand

ILWU: Grain talks break down on 1st day back to bargaining table

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The following is from International Longshore and Warehouse Union:

 


ILWU-United-Grain-march

Several hundred ILWU members and supporters marched to Mitsui-United Grain’s Vancouver headquarters on March 8, 2013, led by International President Robert McEllrath and International Vice President Ray Familathe. (Photo by Jared Moultrie, ILWU Local 4.)

Union offers ILWU-TEMCO agreement as a template for negotiations; employer group refuses to budge from their November 16 ‘last, best and final’ proposal which members rejected by more than 90%

PORTLAND, Ore. (Mar. 25, 2013) — Negotiations between the ILWU Locals 4, 8, 19, 21 and 23 and three members of the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers’ Association broke down on Friday during the first bargaining session the two sides have scheduled in three months. The union ratified an interim collective bargaining agreement with U.S.-based TEMCO, a joint venture between Cargill and CHS, and offered the ratified agreement for the remaining members of the multi-employer group to review. The three foreign-based employers refused to even discuss the TEMCO agreement, and talks broke down. The second day of scheduled bargaining was cancelled, and no additional talks are scheduled.

Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Association members include:

Employer Status

U.S.-based Cargill and CHS (Three TEMCO elevators in Tacoma, Kalama and Portland)


Ratified 5-year interim collective bargaining agreement with ILWU in March 2013.


Japan-based Mitsui (owner of United Grain in Vancouver)


Locked out ILWU workers on February 27, 2013. Implemented November 16 proposal on December 26, 2012. Refusing to consider TEMCO agreement.


Japan-based Marubeni (owner of Columbia Grain in Portland)


Implemented November 16 proposal on December 26, 2012. Refusing to consider TEMCO agreement.


Netherlands-based Louis Dreyfus Commodities (owner of two elevators in Seattle and Portland)


Implemented November 16 proposal on December 26, 2012. Refusing to consider TEMCO agreement.

 

Upon learning the development from the negotiating committee on Friday, ILWU International President Robert McEllrath said, “It’s pure greed that’s stopping these profitable foreign grain merchants from reaching a win-win agreement with workers as their American counterpart TEMCO has done They have a proposal before them that meets the needs of workers and the employer, yet they refuse to consider any fair proposals.”

“The foreign employers refused to consider any proposal from the union other than complete acceptance of the employer’s deeply concessionary ‘last, best and final’ offer that members rejected by more than 90% in December,” said Leal Sundet, ILWU Coast Committeeman and co-chair of the union’s negotiating committee. “That’s not negotiating; it’s outright bad faith bargaining.”

Last week, Washington’s two U.S. senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, wrote to both sides urging them to reach a fair agreement. That letter is available at this link.

Background

ILWU members have been loading grain onto ships at Northwest ports since the 1930’s. In the decades since, collective bargaining agreements between the union and the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Association were reached without major conflicts. That changed in 2011, when a new, overseas-based grain export company, EGT, built a $200 million facility in Longview, Washington, and refused to negotiate in good faith with the ILWU, touching off months of protests that eventually resulted in a first agreement between the ILWU and EGT in February 2012. Shortly afterward, the multi-employer group represented by the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Association began demanding concessions to their own successful 80-year-old grain agreement.

The four companies that constitute the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Association multi-employer group negotiated to impasse with Locals 4, 8, 19, 21 and 23 – which also bargained as a group. The companies insisted on hard line non-starter proposals and refused to budge before the grain contract expired in September, 2012. By November, they demanded that the union accept a deeply-concessionary contract. That proposal was rejected by 94% of the union members who voted in late December. At that point, three companies (not including TEMCO), emboldened by the Taft-Hartley “slave act,” imposed their “final offer,” a concessionary agreement.

Meanwhile, TEMCO, a joint venture of an American farmer cooperative and the American corporation Cargill, declined to participate with the three other grain companies that imposed the concessionary agreement. Instead, TEMCO agreed to employ longshore workers under the expired grain agreement while continuing to negotiate an interim agreement. The union and TEMCO were able to reach terms on a five-year interim agreement that was ratified by members and signed on March 9. The TEMCO/ILWU agreement is subject to modification in order to reflect an eventual agreement between the ILWU and entire Pacific Northwest Grain handlers Association. The interim agreement does not break up the multi-employer group, and the interim agreement is subject to whatever agreement is finally reached with the whole group.

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