Dockworkers, Northwest Ports Play One-Upmanship in Labor Standoff

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Grain barge docked at Port of Lewiston.
  • Grain barge docked at Port of Lewiston.

Facing the possibility of a work stoppage that could cripple grain exports from Idaho and throughout the Northwest, the owners of four major grain terminals announced Wednesday that they would not lock longshore unions out of their jobs and instead will "implement the terms of their final contract offer" beginning today.

Nearly 3,000 members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union announced earlier this week that they had voted to reject a contract proposal that management called its "last, best and final offer." The contract covers six of the nine grain terminals operating in the Puget Sound and along the Columbia River that account for more than a quarter of all U.S. grain exports and nearly half of U.S. wheat exports, including many shipments from Idaho.

"ILWU members are welcome to come to work," a spokesman for the employers told the Associated Press.

The AP reports that ILWU is now "on the spot."

"Its options include accepting the offer, calling for a strike or seeking further bargaining while working under the new terms," according to the AP.

ILWU spokesperson Jennifer Sargent told the AP that its membership intends "to continue working despite the substandard provisions of the employer's last offer."

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