Tacoma-area longshore workers have sidestepped a difficult confrontation between Northwest grain terminal operators and the International Longshore Workers Union by approving a separate contract with the operator of Tacoma's Temco grain terminal.
Temco, a division of Cargill Inc. and CHS Inc., originally was a member of a coalition of Northwest grain terminal operators negotiating a new contract with the ILWU, but the company opted to seek a deal on its own after union workers rejected a coalition proposal late last year.
Temco and the ILWU reached a tentative deal last month which was approved by union members late last week.
That new, five-year labor agreement is due to be signed Saturday.
The agreement covers Temco grain terminals in Tacoma, Kalama and Portland.
Neither the company nor the union has released details of the pact.
In December, other members of the grain terminal operators group implemented the rejected offer, and longshore workers continued working hoping that further negotiations will produce a better offer.
But one of those grain terminal operators, Mitsui-United Grain, last week locked out Longshore Union workers and brought in an alternate workforce.
The company claimed it had a right to implement the lockout because a union worker attempted to sabotage terminal machinery.
Mitsui-United on Tuesday sued that worker in Oregon's Clark County Superior Court contending that the worker, Todd Walker of Vancouver, caused more than $300,000 damage to the terminal equipment.
The union countered with an unfair labor practice charge against the company with the National Labor Relations Board contending the lockout is illegal.
"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," said Robert McEllrath, ILWU president.
The charge contends Mitsui-United locked out the entire union workforce even though it had already terminated the employee it contends was responsible for the damage.
"This constituted loss of employment based on anti-union animus, and a sweeping unilateral change of terms and conditions of employment," the union contended.
The Mitsui-United pointed out that Walker was a union official and a member of the union's negotiating committee.
The union has asked the grain terminal operators Mitsui- United Grain, Columbia Grain and LD Commodities to reopen negotiations.
The Temco deal shows the union is willing to work with terminal operators to reach a new deal, the union said.
A spokesman for the grain handlers said the association has yet to review the Temco contract.
Northwest grain terminals handle more than 25 percent of the nation's grain exports.
John Gillie: 253-597-8663 firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright 2013 - The News Tribune (Tacoma, Wash.)