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Northwest longshore workers reject concessionary proposal, say global grain companies should not put U.S. grain exports at risk

Union officials call grain exporters back to negotiation table after workers in four Pacific Northwest ports vote by a 93.8% margin to reject the exporters’ demanded concessions to an 80-year-old contract

Members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union in four Northwest ports voted by a 93.8% margin this weekend to reject a proposal that multinational grain exporters said in November was its “last, best and final” offer.

“The men and women of the ILWU have voted to reject the profitable grain exporters’ concessionary demands, but we remain committed to reaching a fair agreement that continues our 80-year history of making these export terminals successful,” said Seattle based Rich Austin, Jr., co-chairman of the Union negotiating committee. The collective bargaining agreement between the ILWU and the Pacific Northwest Grain Handler’s Association dates back to 1934.

“We encourage the multinational owners of these elevators to return to the negotiating table, instead of risking the U.S. grain export market as a means to break the union,” Austin said.

Leal Sundet, Coast Committeeman, ILWU headquarters, stated: “The Grain exporters have not bargained in good faith, instead rejecting every effort by the Union to reach a compromised settlement. In essence, their ‘last and final’ offer was not fundamentally different than that originally presented in September. With this decisive vote, it is time to get down to the business of bargaining.”

Eligible voters included a total of approximately 3,000 ILWU members in four Northwest ports.

The Northwest Grainhandlers’ Agreement covers six grain terminals owned by Japan-based Marubeni (Columbia Grain in Portland), Japan-based Mitsui (United Grain in Vancouver), Netherlands-based Louis Dreyfus Commodities (elevators in Seattle and Portland), and US-based Cargill and CHS (Temco elevators in Tacoma and Portland). The collective bargaining agreement expired on September 29, and since that time, the ILWU has continued working under the terms of the expired contract.

Members cast their votes by ballot, in person, at union dispatch halls on Friday and Saturday in Portland, OR, and Vancouver, Tacoma and Seattle, WA. On Monday, the union notified the employers of the vote results and offered additional negotiation dates.

— ILWU Coast Longshore Division news release


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