Members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) overwhelmingly voted to reject what was described as the “last, best and final” contract proposal from three grain-handling companies, including Seattle export-terminal operator LD Commodities.
The outcome, announced Monday, could set the stage for a major labor dispute.
The grain companies — LD Commodities, Columbia Grain and United Grain — could seek to impose the contract and hire replacement workers.
Such a move likely would set off a wave of protests and create new uncertainties for the flow of wheat and other grains through Northwest ports.
The companies declined to reveal their next step.
Seattle Times reporter Hal Bernton, who has been following this, finally reveals a
little detail about what is at issue;
The rejected proposal called for the hourly wage for registered members to increase to between $34 and $36, with an additional $30 an hour for benefits, according to the grain exporters.
The companies said they want greater management discretion on a range of hiring and staffing decisions. They said they’ve held 34 days of meetings, including 11 facilitated by a federal labor mediator but remain millions of dollars apart on the question of labor costs.
One doesn't have to ponder that long to realize that, in this economy with its abnormally high unemployment (and underemployment), there are literally legions of people who would love to take the grain terminal operators offer. Nor that, at $66 per hour, it would be a miracle if there weren't millions of dollars at stake.
An attitude adjustment on someone's part is needed, and we just happen to have one on hand, thanks to economist Russ Roberts and his weekly EconTalk podcast. Let's hear from business person Lisa Turner;
Exactly. Those grain terminal operators are just part of the food chain (in this case, literally). Every dollar they pay out to operate their business has to be recovered by getting someone, somewhere to pay for it. Which means those 'starving kids in China', people of a certain age were always being reminded of when they weren't being good members of the Clean Plate Club, who need the food for their plates.
To the ILWU, it's just another ox to gore, but to many it's the stuff of life.