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Grain Terminal Dispute Temporarily Shuts Down Vancouver, Wash. Port Docks

Colin Fogarty
Northwest News Network

A union lock out at a big grain export terminal brought all ship loading and unloading to a halt at the Port of Vancouver, Washington Wednesday. It's one of several developments in a long-running labor dispute involving longshore workers and grain handlers.

United Grain Corporation says its lock-out of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union was spurred by repeated incidents of machinery sabotage. It blamed two specific instances on a union negotiator. But a longshore union spokeswoman accuses the company of "fabricating" the story as an excuse to bring in non-union replacement workers.

The picket line at the grain terminal was peaceful Wednesday, but there was fallout elsewhere. A Port of Vancouver spokeswoman says longshore workers assigned to unload a nearby car carrier full of Subarus walked off in sympathy.

Meanwhile, the longshore union reached a tentative five-year labor pact covering three other grain export terminals. Those are located in Tacoma, Kalama and Portland and are operated by a joint venture called Temco. Neither side provided details of the new contract.

The settlement with Temco means the majority of Northwest grain export terminals now have up-to-date labor agreements. Together, the nine unionized terminals on the Columbia River and Puget Sound handle nearly half of the nation's wheat exports.


Northwest terminals covered by new or existing contracts:

TEMCO - Tacoma, WA
TEMCO - Kalama, WA
TEMCO - Portland
EGT - Longview, WA
Kalama Export Co. - Kalama, WA

Terminals still involved in standoff:

Seattle (Louis Dreyfus Commodities) -- offline due to construction on improvements
Vancouver, WA (United Grain Corp.)
Portland (Columbia Grain Inc.)
Portland (Louis Dreyfus Commodities) -- offline for improvements

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.