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Labor War: Longshore union shows aggression in Washington port dispute

Port Union 2.jpg

In this Port of Vancouver surveillance video footage from 2013, a member from ILWU Local 4 is seen trying to open the door of a state grain inspectors vehicle after confronting the official for trying to enter the facility.

A labor dispute at the Port of Vancouver, Wash., that has locked out longshore union members for more than a year appears to have taken an aggressive and disturbing turn, with accusations of menacing confrontations and violent threats.    

Members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 4 have been accused of violently approaching security officers and harassing workers at the export terminal for United Grain Corp. at the Port of Vancouver, Wash., which is across the Columbia River from Portland, Ore.

Even more disturbing, union members are accused of threatening to rape a manager’s daughter and harm another executive’s children.

The dockworkers have maintained a picket line at the Vancouver export terminal since February 2013, when they were locked out in a labor dispute with United Grain.

The accusations are documented in legal filings by Ronald Hooks, the National Labor Relations Board’s regional director in Seattle.

“It is a situation that has evolved, or devolved, depending on your definition,” Hooks told FoxNews.com. “It is something that both sides are going to have to work out.”

The allegations against Local 4 surfaced in Hooks’ court filing, which accuses United Grain of unjustly locking out the dockworkers. But the report’s most shocking revelations involve the workers’ retaliatory tactics.

FoxNews.com obtained an NLRB filing in the case, dated Feb. 28, 2014, that contains a litany of allegations involving Local 4 since March 2013 at the United Grain facility, across the Columbia River from Portland.

The filing accuses Local 4 members of:

  • Confronting a United Grain manager at a mall in Vancouver in April 2013, and preventing him from leaving.

 

  • Shining spotlights into vehicles carrying managers and security personnel on several occasions in an attempt to blind them as they entered the port facility, and causing permanent eye damage to one security officer. The filing claims the dockworkers also tailed and “recklessly pursued” those vehicles and vendor trucks onto nearby highways after they left the port.

 

  • Threatening to throw 10 United Grain managers off a dock into the Columbia River.

 

  • Carrying heavy metal chains in an incident in March 2013 during which they threatened that they would “f--- [the managers] up,” warned that they knew where the managers lived and said they would rape one manager’s daughter.

 

  • Hurling racial slurs at black security personnel and threatening to “beat” them.

 

  • Harassing a manager repeatedly, including a specific incident on April 30, 2013, when the dockworkers threatened to “wring [his] f---ing neck” and told him his family was in danger. They allegedly toyed with him for months afterward, asking, “Are [your] children OK today?”

Officials for ILWU Local 4 did not reply to a request for comment.

The battle between United Grain and Local 4 began in February 2013, when the company accused a local union leader of sabotaging its operations at the Port of Vancouver by not matching contract deals between the ILWU and the Export Grain Terminal in nearby Longview, Wash. United Grain locked out the longshoremen as a result and replaced them with other workers. Local 4 has denied the company’s allegations.

“Since the previous contract expired in September 2012, United Grain and the two other export terminal operators that coordinate their bargaining with ILWU have been seeking a contract with the union that matches the provisions of the contract ILWU signed with the EGT terminal in Longview, WA., in early 2012,” United Grain spokesman Pat McCormick said in a statement to FoxNews.com.

“The dispute has never been about wages and benefits, but work rules the union approved that have given EGT a significant competitive cost advantage….

“Union behavior at United Grain in Vancouver and Columbia Grain in Portland led to lockouts of ILWU workers,” he continued. “Picket line misbehavior and incidents at the homes and offices of company executives have led to arrests and citations.”

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