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Longshore workers, companies reach deal

Vote ends 18-month lockout at grain terminal

Longshore workers who work at grain export terminals in Vancouver and other Northwest ports have voted overwhelmingly to ratify a new collective bargaining agreement with several multinational grain companies, ending two years of negotiations and an 18-month lockout at the United Grain terminal in Vancouver, the Longshore union said Tuesday.

The vote included members of ILWU Local 4 in Vancouver, Local 8 in Portland, Local 21 in Longview, Local 19 in Seattle, and Local 23 in Tacoma. The tally was 88.4 percent in favor, with 1,475 supporting and 193 opposed to an agreement with United Grain Corp. in Vancouver, Louis Dreyfus Commodities in Portland and Seattle, and Columbia Grain Inc. in Portland.

The contract will be in effect until May 31, 2018.

Negotiations for the new agreement began in August 2012, involved 70 separate sessions, and included lockouts at United Grain and Portland’s Columbia Grain. Terms of the agreement include work rule changes and wage increases over the life of the agreement, but details of those contract changes were not disclosed.

ILWU members will resume their jobs at the locked-out facilities today. All picketing has ceased, and the parties have agreed to drop all pending claims before the National Labor Relations Board and other legal actions associated with the dispute.

More than a quarter of all U.S. grain exports move through nine grain terminals on the Columbia River and Puget Sound. The contract dispute initially involved six of those terminals that operate under a single collective bargaining agreement with the Longshore union at United Grain, Louis Dreyfus Commodities, and Temco, which has grain elevators in Portland and Tacoma.

Temco broke away from the alliance in early December 2012 and negotiated separately with the union.

United Grain locked out Longshore workers in February 2013. About two months later, Columbia Grain locked out union dockworkers at its facility in Portland.

The conflict wasn’t about wages and benefits. Instead, it was about workplace rules and hiring policies.

Terminal operators had argued for a new contract that mirrors employer-friendly terms the Longshore union signed in February 2012 with Export Grain Terminal in Longview. The union contended those demands by United Grain, Columbia Grain and Louis Dreyfus Commodities would hurt workers.

Early contract offers from the grain handlers would have taken away some perks and grievance procedures. Other concessions include letting employers go to court to end work stoppages immediately and allowing supervisors to perform work during health-and-safety disputes.