Officials at the Port of Lewiston are keeping a close watch on negotiations with dockworkers at four Pacific Northwest ports and, so far, the news is not good.
On Monday, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union announced that nearly 3,000 of its members 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.
Reuters reports that the stalemate "fueled speculation that grain shippers might impose a lockout of union members in a bid to keep terminals operating with replacement workers."
Meanwhile, the ILWU hasn't authorized a strike and is urging its shippers to return to the bargaining table.
The U.S. Coast Guard says it is preparing to establish what it calls "buffer zones" to keep union-related protests from interfering with navigation around the ports.