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A judge may have just saved longshore workers union (ILWU) from bankruptcy

PortandTerminal.com, March 7, 2020

SEATTLE, WA – A longstanding and bitter feud over two dockworker jobs risked putting the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) into bankruptcy. To survive they needed to get a $93.6 million judgement against them reversed or dramatically reduced.

That’s exactly what just happened on Thursday this week.

READ: ILWU shenanigans at Port of Portland may bankrupt the dockworker union

A federal judge Thursday found a jury’s award of $93.6 million in damages against the International Longshore and Warehouse Union unwarranted and reduced the figure to slightly over $19 million.


Two dock workers in orange uniforms plugging in refrigerated containers.
The ILWU tried to force container terminal operator ICTSI Oregon to hand over two dockworker jobs being done at the time by another union.

In 2012, the ILWU tried to pressure a container terminal operator, ICTSI Oregon, at the Port of Portland to hand over two dockworker jobs being done at the time by workers of another union.

When they didn’t get what they wanted, the ILWU started making life difficult for ICSTI by sabotaging shipping traffic through labor slowdowns and work stoppages. This went on for four years.

The labor slowdowns and stoppages resulted in shipping lines completely abandoning the Port of Portland.

Container rucks back up outside the Port of Portland’s container terminal
Trucks back up outside the Port of Portland’s container terminal in 2012 due to ILWU work slowdowns

Finally, in 2017 ICSTI Oregon had had enough and bought its way out of its 25-year contract to operate the container terminal at the Port of Portland. Getting out of the contract with the port cost ICSTI $20 million.

Understandably angry, ICSTI then took the ILWU to court to sue for damages and won.

Last November, a federal jury awarded $93.6 million to the former operator of the Port of Portland’s container terminal, ICTSI, Oregon Inc, finding that the dockworkers union ILWU had sabotaged shipping traffic through years of labor slowdowns and stoppages.

READ: $93.6M awarded to Port Terminal operator for losses due to dock workers actions

The ILWU doesn’t have that kind of money and could have been pushed into bankruptcy if forced to pay the amount. So they appealed and on Thursday last week won.

They still have been ordered to pay ICTSI a lot of money – $19 million, but not nearly as life-threateningly huge an amount as $93.6 million

What next?

Port of Portland container cranes seen from waterside

The former operator of the Port of Portland’s container terminal, ICTSI Oregon, can either accept the lower amount of $19 million or seek a new trial solely to determine the appropriate damages, U.S. District Judge Michael H. Simon ruled in a 53-page decision.

The judge gave ICTSI Oregon two weeks to inform the court of its decision.

Elvis Ganda, ICTSI Oregon’s president and chief executive officer, said the company doesn’t agree with the damages’ reduction. “We are now considering all options in our continuing efforts to hold the ILWU accountable and obtain justice,” Ganda said in a statement.

This fight isn’t over yet, but for now, the ILWU has had their load lightened.

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