Northwest grain handlers announced that contract talks facing a Sunday deadline would extend into mid October, avoiding a lockout of longshoremen at Portland and Puget Sound terminals that handle almost half the nation’s wheat exports.
But almost simultaneously Friday, longshoremen walked out at the Port of Portland’s container Terminal 6 and perhaps some other West Coast ports, protesting a guilty verdict for union President Robert “Big Bob” McEllrath. A Cowlitz County, Wash., jury found McEllrath guilty of obstructing a train last year during a protest in Longview, Wash.
“I have no regrets for leading my men and women against corporate greed,” McEllrath was quoted as saying. “What’s happening in this country against the middle class is wrong.”
In statements posted Friday on the union Web site, Coast Committeeman Leal Sundet described the grain handlers’ contract as a mature agreement built on 80 years of negotiations with highly profitable companies.
“The EGT contract will build in subsequent negotiations,” Sundet said. “The industry moguls are mistaken in thinking they can take advantage of a new competitor to downgrade their own successful contract.”