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Longshore union will seek to overturn $93.6 million verdict

West Coast longshore union says it could be bankrupted by a jury's verdict in favor of Portland, Oregon container terminal operator.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) says a jury verdict that says the union owes $93.6 million to the former operator of a container terminal in the Port of Portland is flawed.

The verdict against the union and in favor of ICTSI, Oregon Inc. was “shocking,” said ILWU International President Willie Adams. “Worse was the mischaracterization throughout the trial that the ILWU does not care about the Oregon community or the Port of Portland.”

In a filing with the U.S. District Court in Portland, the ILWU says it will seek to have to verdict modified, and if necessary, appeal.

The $93.6 million in damages were apportioned 55% against the ILWU and 45% against Local 8.

Attorneys for the union say “entry of judgment on the verdict will impose a heavy financial burden with serious collateral consequences, including bankruptcy.” The ILWU’s annual LM-2 Labor Organization Annual Report filed with the Department of Labor says the union had net assets of $6,181,317 at the end of 2018.

ICTSI Oregon is a U.S. subsidiary of the Philippines-based International Container Terminal Services Inc. It operated Terminal 6, the sole container terminal in the Port of Portland, from 2011 to 2017, but had a rocky relationship with the ILWU and its Local 8.

“The lawsuit stems from a labor dispute between ICTSI and the union in 2012, when ICTSI became a signatory to a labor agreement with the ILWU but refused to assign all of the work covered by the collective bargaining agreement to ILWU-represented workers,” said the union in a press release. “The labor dispute was quickly decided in ICTSI’s favor by the NLRB and later in federal court, while labor management relations at Terminal 6 worsened for wholly unrelated reasons.”

The union contended work tending reefer containers rightfully belonged to its members and not the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, while ICTSI said the decision of who to assign the reefer work to was that of the Port of Portland.

In a memorandum to ILWU locals and affiliates, Adams said the union had attempted to settle the lawsuit and accused ICTSI of having the goal of “union-busting on a global scale.” He said the jury’s verdict was inconsistent with the evidence and based on “flawed NLRB findings and unreliable evidence of ICTSI’s damages.”

He accused ICTSI of “creating and promoting a miserable working environment for longshore workers” and said the company “was doomed to fail at the Port of Portland.” He also pointed to the challenges the company faced operating a container terminal on the Columbia River, which is located over 100 miles inland.

Based on earlier proceedings, Judge Simon said the court accepted as proven fact that “between June 1 and June 10, 2012, ILWU members engaged in slowdowns, work stoppages, safety gimmicks and other acts with the objective of obtaining the reefer work for ILWU members, which constituted unlawful labor practices” and that union leaders had threatened that steamship lines would not continue to do business with ICTSI in Portland.

ICTSI claimed that unlawful job actions caused the container carriers calling Terminal 6 to abandon Portland, and said the job actions continued until it shut down the terminal in 2017, causing it harm and damages.

Adams said the ILWU Longshore Division will be holding a special caucus to discuss the ICTSI verdict.

He said since ICTSI’s departure, the Port of Portland has resumed operating Terminal 6 in partnership with the ILWU, and the ILWU and the port are working together to bring new business and container services to Terminal 6.”

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Chris Dupin

Chris Dupin has written about trade and transportation and other business subjects for a variety of publications before joining American Shipper and Freightwaves.

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