Over the past few years, the Port of Portland grew concerned with the slow pace of workers who were members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU). These slowdowns forced ships to reroute, delayed delivery of goods received from that port, and sought to force companies to cease using the port as a shipping destination. Unbeknownst to many business owners, it is illegal for employees to intentionally slow down while working. While this union pressure tactic used to be permitted, it is now an unfair labor practice but a few unions – including the ILWU – still engage in this behavior.
The labor dispute is a classic jurisdictional dispute over who should be plugging, unplugging, and monitoring refrigerated containers after they are unloaded from vessels. The ILWU contends that the work should be assigned to it rather than to electricians who are members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers who are directly employed by the Port.
According to the judge, the ILWU encouraged its members “to unnecessarily operate cranes and drive trucks in a slow and non-productive manner, refuse to hoist cranes in bypass mode, and refused to move two 20-foot containers at a time on older carts, in order to force or require the company and carriers who call at their terminal within the port to cease doing business with the port.”
The union’s illegal antics forced the state’ Governor’s office to get involved, and the Port even started an incentive program offering extra payments to container carriers who continue to send ships to Portland in an effort to offset concerns about slow turnaround times. Continued slowdowns will result in the ILWU being held in contempt.