EGT Grain terminal, ILWU Local 21 have smooth labor talks

EGT Grain terminal, ILWU Local 21 have smooth labor talks

Marissa Luck

The local longshoremen’s union has quietly reached an agreement with the operators of the Longview Export Grain Terminal, avoiding the strife that plagued the negotiations five years ago.

Negotiations only lasted about a month, according to the union, and EGT and International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 21 came to an agreement smoothly, according to both sides.

Members unanimously voted to approve the new contract in April, and the five-year contract went into effect last week. Local 21 represents 283 members, but only about 65 people typically work at EGT.

“I think they were looking for stability. … We were able to come to an agreement for the benefit of both sides,” Billy Roberts, Local 21 president, said Wednesday. “It wasn’t hostile.”

The new contract retains the union’s job jurisdiction spelled out in the old contract, so EGT will continue to hire workers out of the Local 21. In 2011, the company’s initial refusal to hire ILWU workers sparked a contentious labor dispute that resulted in protests, blocked rail lines and a storming of terminal property. There were hundreds of arrests and thousands of dollars in fines.

The two sides appear to have mended their relationship over the last five or six years. “We wanted to build our relationship and move on. No one wins with these confrontations,” Roberts said.

“Basically both sides wanted to just go to work,” added Jake Ford, Local 21 vice president.

For the past year, EGT’s business has been thriving. In 2016, the terminal moved 6.6 million tons of grain , its best year since the terminal opened in 2012, according to the Port of Longview. Matthew Kerrigan, EGT manager, said the terminal expecting another strong year for exports in 2017.

The new contract will maintain the same wage structure as the previous contract, and any salary increases will be based on changes in the market, Roberts said. Local 21 also represents workers at the Temco grain terminal in Kalama, and its goal is to have all of its grain terminal workers make the same wages.