Portland port security officers may strike, shut down port
Port of Portland officials are facing an early April deadline to return to the bargaining table with port security officers or face a shutdown of the port.
The 10-month-long negotiations between the port and the officers' union are in a mandated 30-day cooling off period that ends April 7. International Longshore and Warehouse Union officials, which represent the security officers, said no further talks with port representatives are planned and that the officers can and will strike once the cooling-off period expires.
If the 26 officers strike, the union said other union labor, including dockworkers and truck drivers, would honor the picket lines, essentially shutting down the port.
The port's security officers, tasked with staffing the gates at marine terminal egress points and screening truckers for government identification, are asking for a 10 percent raise to compensate for a growing level of dangerous incidents the officers claim they are being confronted with on the job.
Last week, an officer was shot in the thigh by an intruder after responding to a call at one the marine terminals. While the officer's wound was not life threatening, the shooting is the third incident at the port in the past 90 days where intruders confronted officers. In addition to the shooting, these include an officer being stabbed and one being assaulted with rocks and 2x4s.
Portland port officers, while required to have law enforcement backgrounds, are not permitted to carry firearms. In addition, the officers claim their jobs have expanded in scope and danger level since Sept. 11, 2001 without a commensurate increase in pay. Starting salary for port security officers is $20.39 an hour, although the average port officer makes $23.38 hourly due to years of service.
The Port of Portland is the busiest exporting facility for bulk wheat in the nation and the third-largest in the world. It is also the nation's fifth-largest port for total tonnage, third-largest auto import gateway, and the largest mineral bulk port on the West Coast. Any shutdown would have an immediate impact on the state economy and possibly further reaching consequences depending on the duration of any strike.
'I imagine there would be a ripple in the area economically just from the fact that no goods would be moving either by container cargo or on roads,' ILWU union representative David Vale told the Portland Tribune. 'If we strike, basically all of the seaport is shut down.' ' Keith Higginbotham