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Archive for February, 2013

Upgrades at ports, more exports of corn benefit wheat, official says

Feb. 19, 2013

From: Capital Press – The West’s AG website

Written by cradut

February 19th, 2013 at 5:20 pm


The below is partial article from:

Full story can be found at the following link;

Grain Strain
February 13, 2013

The West Coast Longshore union and the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Association are at a stalemate. The two sides were locked in tense negotiations late last year, with the ILWU trying to maintain longstanding master contract standards for the 3,000 longshore workers who handle grain along the Puget Sound and Columbia River.

Longshore workers in the region move nearly 30 percent of all U.S. grain exports, including half the nation’s wheat shipments.

The conflict came to a head December 18 when employers declared impasse and pushed the four ILWU locals to vote on their “last, best, and final” offer. Grain workers rejected the proposal by 94 percent. But two of the association employers—Columbia Grain and United Grain—imposed the new terms anyway on December 27, hoping to provoke a strike.

“It’s simple: they want to break the union,” said Leal Sundet, the ILWU Coast Committeeman leading grain negotiations. “But we’ve been here 80 years and we’re not going anywhere.”

According to Sundet, these employers have taken full advantage of the high prices—and hefty profit margins—accompanying this year’s low harvest, spending several months, and millions of dollars, preparing for a showdown with the ILWU. Grain operators fortified terminal entrances in anticipation of aggressive picket lines and installed new surveillance technology to limit the effectiveness of work-to-rule strategies.

The companies had out-of-town replacement workers and three non-union tugboats—complete with armed security and additional Coast Guard protection—on hand in case longshore workers walked off the job.

Rather than strike, the ILWU chose to report to work under the newly imposed conditions, and is considering unfair labor practice charges against the two companies while trying to hammer out a better deal separately with TEMCO, a joint venture between global agribusiness companies CHS and Cargill. Terminals for the fourth employer, Louis-Dreyfus Commodities, have been shuttered for construction, but the company continues to participate in negotiations.

The union remains tight-lipped about TEMCO negotiations, but it is unclear how a settlement—even one protecting master contract standards—can be spread to the two hard-line employers.

Last year’s pitched battle in Longview, Washington, over 25 jobs cast a long shadow over bargaining. ILWU members squared off with grain giant EGT after the company announced it would operate its new state-of-the-art terminal with a different, compliant union. The ILWU finally reached an agreement after months of picketing and direct action that included occupation of the grain terminal, a blockaded train shipment, and scores of arrests.

Despite the militancy, the EGT contract loosened work rules and staffing standards compared to the master grain contract. Now employers are pushing to spread these concessions, such as regular 12-hour shifts, bypassing seniority, and greater flexibility to use supervisors for bargaining unit work.

These developments only raise the stakes for the master contract negotiations coming up in 2014, covering 15,000 West Coast longshore workers. For generations these ILWU members have set the bar for militancy, on-the-job organization, and top-notch contracts. Employers clearly are gearing up to loosen labor’s grip on a key chokepoint in their global supply chain. Look for fireworks in June next year.

Written by cradut

February 17th, 2013 at 9:09 pm

Upgrades on the waterfront…and more negotiations

From portland Business Journal
Grain terminal operators spend big on updates

From the
Cargill talks secretly with longshore union behind backs of fellow Northwest grain terminal owners

Written by cradut

February 10th, 2013 at 4:24 am