About 25 members of ILWU Local 12 held an informational picket outside Southport Forest Products on the North Spit in Coos Bay on Monday, July 9th. ILWU members are protesting the company’s bid to undercut wages and cut staffing at a newly renovated barge slip that received $500,000 in public funds.
The barge slip once belonged to the Oregon International Port of Coos Bay but it was sold to Southport Forest Products in 2004. With the help of a generous public subsidy, the slip was rehabilitated to handle multiple types of cargo; Southport will use the slip to load and offload timber and wood products.
The ILWU tried to negotiate contracts with Southport, but the company wanted to use fewer men and pay them lower wages than ILWU members would accept, said longshoreman Gene Sundet. The ILWU’s attorneys are reviewing the issue, to see if the company violated terms of the Connect Oregon One grant that Southport received to rehabilitate the slip.
“The public needs to know what is going on,” Sundet said. “[Southport] has been subsidized 100 percent. Now after taking public money, they are cutting jobs and wages.”