Jury awards $93.6 million to former operator of Port’s Terminal 6 for losses due to dock workers’ unlawful labor practices


By Maxine Bernstein | The Oregonian/OregonLive

Nov 04, 2019


A federal jury Monday awarded $93.6 million to the former operator of the Port of Portland’s container terminal, finding the dock workers union sabotaged shipping traffic and caused productivity to plummet through years of labor slowdowns and stoppages.


The Philippine-owned ICTSI Oregon, which signed a 25-year lease in 2010 to operate Terminal 6, left the port in March 2017, idled by the labor strife it says the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and its Local 8 chapter encouraged.


That marked the effective end to the frequent use of Oregon’s only container terminal accessible by large ocean-crossing cargo vessels. Terminal 6 now mostly runs as a truck-to-train operation with containers unloaded from trucks onto trains bound for the ports of Tacoma and Seattle.


The verdict followed a two-week civil trial before U.S. District Judge Michael H. Simon in Portland and years of protracted disputes in court and before the National Labor Relations Board.


“The ILWU went too far. They have given that middle finger to the port, to the National Labor Relations Board and to its own community, and you are here to hold them accountable,’’ ICTSI’s lawyer Amanda T. Gamblin told jurors in her closing argument.


The union “beat ICTSI into the ground,’’ Gamblin said.


But the union’s lawyers said declines in productivity at Terminal 6 resulted from a range of factors: market forces, geographic limitations of the port situated so far inland with a shallow river depth for big vessels and dismissive management that caused a demoralized workforce.


“ICTSI is trying to use the ILWU as its piggybank,” attorney Susan J. Harriman argued on behalf of the union. “It decided to make its money from this lawsuit, instead of making Terminal 6 a success.’’


The international union and its Portland chapter had been clashing for years with the terminal operator, starting shortly after the port hired the company to run its container terminal.


In 2012, longshore workers claimed ICTSI Oregon should give them the jobs plugging, unplugging and monitoring refrigerated containers, taking the so-called “reefer’’ work away from an electricians union.


The large marine terminal on the Columbia River, about 100 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean, was equipped to unload and load seagoing vessels and to store incoming and outgoing containers while awaiting shipment by land or sea.


The “reefer” containers have electrically powered refrigeration units attached to safely ship perishable agricultural commodities and other goods all over the world. Workers had to plug the containers into electrical receptacle banks at the terminal and periodically check to make sure they were kept at the proper temperatures.


The terminal operator argued that the union deliberately disrupted work to get the company to grant longshore workers the sought-after “reefer’’ jobs: truckers driving at a walking pace, workers taking extensive time loading containers and others showing up late, delaying crane workers from getting started.


A judge already determined that the union was guilty of unlawful labor practices from May 21, 2012, through Aug. 13, 2013, to get the work on the refrigerated containers.


The eight-member jury...