By Melanthia Mitchell
SEATTLE — Hundreds of union members converged on a Port of Seattle Commission meeting Thursday, protesting the proposed privatization of certain crane maintenance jobs.
The commission had been scheduled to vote on the port’s request to terminate an in-house crane maintenance program. Citing the overwhelming response from union members, commissioners proposed a 30-day extension on the decision.
Members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the International Union of Operational Engineers spoke at the meeting.
"You need to stop taking the word of the people that are lying to us and lying to you," said Carol Broxen, an operating engineer.
The port wants maintenance of four container cranes — at terminals 18, 25, 30 and 46 — turned over to the individual terminal operators, saying current operating costs had exceeded revenues by $1 million.
"We made it clear that unless dramatic changes took place … operation would be turned over to the tenants," said Lou Pisano, port director of labor relations.
The shift would mean the potential loss of 50 full-time jobs, said Steve Williamson, executive secretary-treasurer of the King County Labor Council.
"The port’s decision-making process shouldn’t be about the bottom fiscal line," said Williamson. "These are public-sector jobs and they want to turn them into private sectors."
Commission president Clare Nordquist said the 30-day extension would give the unions and the port time to develop ways of cutting costs without eliminating jobs. He gave the unions until Monday to accept the extension.
"We are losing money, and we need to change that," Nordquist said. "But I want to make sure everybody has a chance to talk."
Williamson said the two unions would meet and decide if they want to accept the commission’s offer.
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