Judge orders end to slowdown at Port of Portland

By Steven Dubois Associated Press

PORTLAND, Ore. — A federal judge has told Longshore workers to end a slowdown at the Port of Portland that has disrupted shipping in the region.

Judge Michael Simon handed down the 10-day order Tuesday after hearing that mediation had failed to resolve a dispute between the unions representing longshoremen and electrical workers over duties that amount to two jobs.

Simon appointed former Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski last month to mediate the dispute. Kulongoski told him Tuesday there wasn’t enough time to get all the issues resolved.

Simon urged the parties to continue negotiations — with or without Kulongoski.

Major shipping lines serving the Portland’s Terminal 6 diverted to other ports during the slowdown, disrupting export-import cargos for more than 1,000 regional businesses.

Simon said the dispute over the two jobs will eventually come to an end, but the economic damage — particularly if container shippers decide to permanently skip Portland — could be long-lasting for all parties.

“It really is in your best interests, and the public’s, to end it sooner rather than later,” he said.

The dispute centers on the work of plugging and unplugging refrigerated shipping containers known as reefers. The electrical workers have maintained them for decades under an agreement with the Port of Portland. The question of whether they should continue to perform it arose after the port leased Terminal 6 operations to ICTSI Oregon Inc., a subsidiary of a company in the Philippines.

Now that a private company is in control, the longshoremen say the jobs must switch to them because of the collective bargaining agreement between the ILWU and the Pacific Maritime Association, of which ICTSI is a member.

The electrical workers, ICTSI and the Port of Portland on Tuesday agreed to let the longshoremen have the work until the National Labor Relations Board, which held a hearing on the matter in May, issues a ruling on which union should get the work.

Ronald Hooks, regional director of the National Labor Relations Board in Seattle, said Tuesday that a decision from Washington D.C. could take months.