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Charge: Mitsui-United Grain lockout illegal

The following is from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union:

ILWU-logo-13The International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Local 4 has filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge against Mitsui-United Grain for the company’s lockout of its workforce at the Port of Vancouver USA that began on Feb. 27.

“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,” said ILWU International President Robert McEllrath, a Vancouver-based longshoreman. “Mitsui-United Grain should stop violating the law, 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.”

Last week, the ILWU made a joint announcement with grain exporter TEMCO, owned by Cargill and the American farmers represented by CHS, that the U.S. companies and the union had reached a collective bargaining agreement that was voted on and approved by the ILWU membership at Locals 4, 8, 19, 21 and 23, which all handle grain in the Northwest.

The ULP charge was filed March 4 at the National Labor Relation Board’s Region 19 office in Seattle by ILWU Local 4, which represents the 200 men and women who have loaded grain and other cargo at the Port of Vancouver USA since 1934. The basis of the charge includes the union’s assertion that Mitsui-United Grain “took the extreme measure of locking out its entire bargaining unit even though by its own statements it had identified and terminated the employee allegedly responsible for the property damage [that the company claimed took place on December 22 – 5 days before its unilateral implementation of its final offer.]. This constituted loss of employment based on anti-union animus, and a sweeping unilateral change of terms and conditions of employment.”

ILWU Local 4 members have been walking round-the-clock picket lines at the Mitsui-United Grain gate, and are receiving supportive comments from community members.

The ILWU has a nearly 80-year history of exporting grain in the Pacific Northwest, including at the Port of Vancouver USA, Portland, Kalama, Tacoma and Seattle, under a collective bargaining agreement with the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Association. The union and the employer group, of which Mitsui-United Grain is a member, began negotiating a new agreement in August 2012, with the employer group demanding hundreds of concessions from the union workers. The last negotiating session took place on December 12, and the overseas-based employers imposed their “last, best and final offer” which workers had rejected by a vote of more than 90%, on December 27. TEMCO continued negotiating with the ILWU and has reached an agreement that covers its three Northwest facilities in Portland, Kalama and Tacoma.

Since December, ILWU Local 4 has been loading grain for export under the imposed contract, while continuing to call the employer back to the bargaining table to reach an agreement to be ratified by workers.

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