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  • Writer's pictureFirst Port Global (FPG)

Turmoil for the ILWU over law suit

A US court has awarded ICTSI $96.5M in damages from the ILWU over unlawful labour action in Portland.

ICTSI Oregon Inc. has been awarded the damages following a jury trial in Portland, Oregon in a case brought against the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) for unlawful labour practices at Portland.

ICTSI took up a 25-year concession to operate the Terminal 6 container facility in Portland in 2010. The ILWU was never happy about ICTSI’s presence in a US port and turned a demarcation dispute over two jobs connecting reefer containers at the terminal into a protracted battle. ICSTI fought the ILWU for several years, but after the port lost both its main container line customers ICTSI walked away from Portland in March 31 2017. It agreed to a pay the port authority US$11.45M in compensation and leave some equipment at the terminal.

ICTSI has already won arbitration and court verdicts against the ILWU over its actions and unfair labour practices that ultimately undermined ICTSI’s business in Portland. The verdict is a resounding defeat for the union. The jury determined that of the $96,635,000 it awarded in damages the ILWU should be responsible for 55% and Portland Local 8 a 45% share.

In reporting on the case Oregon media have said the the ILWU’s lawyer argued the damages were unreasonably high and could possibly bankrupt the ILWU. Notifying its membership of the verdict ILWU International President William Adams tried to be less alarmist. “The ILWU and Local 8 had already conceded they might owe some damages in the case, based on prior NRLB findings that we are prohibited from disputing at trial, but it was ICTSI’s own mismanagement of the container terminal that led to its failure,” he said.

Though evidence has been heard in several legal proceedings of ILWU intimidation and a campaign against ICTSI, the union continues to tell its membership a different story. “In creating and promoting a miserable working environment for longshore workers, ICTSI was doomed to fail at the Port of Portland,” said Adams. “We attempted to settle the case, but ICTSI’s goal all along has been union-busting on a global scale. We disagree with the outcome, which was based on a flawed NRLB finding and unreliable evidence of ICTSI’s damages. We believe the jury’s damages award is inconsistent with the evidence, and we will raise these fundamental flaws with the Court, and, if necessary, on appeal.”

The case is not settled yet. Though the jury has delivered its verdict the Court has delayed entering judgement while damages are considered. Once that process is complete the ILWU and Local 8 will have 28 days to file post-verdict motions, and after that the appeal process can be considered.

The amount of damages has raised alarm within the ILWU, which is already facing internal divisions over its leadership and how the Pier 400 automation project in Los Angeles has unfolded. The ILWU Longshore Division is holding a "Special Caucus" to discuss the outcome of the trial.

For ICTSI, Elvis Ganda, President & Chief Executive Officer North America, ICTSI Oregon, Inc. said, “We are grateful to the jury for its diligence in dealing with a very complicated case and holding the appropriate parties responsible for violations of the law that resulted in the critical impairment of operations at Oregon’s only container terminal. The jury’s decision validates ICTSI’s determination to seek justice in an unfortunate situation that impacted many local businesses, communities and the people that depended on Terminal 6 as a vital connection to international trade.”

There could be more bad news to come for the ILWU: Locals 8 and 92 in Portland are being sued by Columbia Export Terminal LLC at Portland for nearly $16M in a wage fraud claim.

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