10 quotes explaining crisis at Port of Portland

022015 port portland OBM-thumbBY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

The ongoing labor disputes at the Port of Portland came to a head two weeks ago when Hanjin, the container port’s largest client, notified its customers it would be ending its direct route to Oregon.

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022015 port portland OBM

The ongoing labor disputes at the Port of Portland came to a head two weeks ago when Hanjin, the container port’s largest client, notified its customers it would be ending its direct route to Oregon.

We picked 10 memorable quotes from stakeholders caught up in the crisis.

1. Ports shut down for weekend

“It’s a total disaster,” said Patti Iverson-Summer, of Global Trading Resources Inc. and the area’s export council in a story published by the Portland Business Journal. “Oregon is the sixth largest exporting state in the union, and there’s no labor to unload export containers. Exporters by and large are losing market share, and people are going elsewhere for the product. Japan has to feed their own livestock and they depend on Oregon wheat. The product (will be) ruined by the time it gets there.”

2. Hanjin calls it quits

“We apologize for any inconvenience from this change. However, we remain committed to providing efficient services to and from the Portland region. We appreciate your continued support in advance,” the company wrote in the unsigned letter to customers, reported by the Portland Business Journal.

3. ILWU points fingers

“Hanjin’s stated departure from Portland rests solely on ICTSI’s inherent refusal and failure to nurture customer relations,” the longshoreman’s union said in a statement published by Portland Business Journal. “ICTSI’s only interest is to leverage its regional monopoly for maximum short term and unit company profit. Its customers are secondary.”

“ICTSI’s disrespect for its customers interests parallels labor relations with its workforce,” the ILWU’s statement continued. “Their approach has been, ‘This is what ICTSI wants. Take it or leave it.'”

4. ICTSI tells a different story

The terminal operator responds with a lengthy statement. From PBJ:

In 2012, a high-ranking ILWU representative promised to send Terminal 6 carriers, including Hanjin, “packing” if ICTSI Oregon did not assign work to ILWU members that was controlled by the Port of Portland and historically performed by another union.

Since that time, the ILWU has embarked on a long-standing and continuing campaign of work stoppages, slowdowns and safety gimmicks calculated to drive away the terminal’s customers and put ICTSI Oregon out of business.

5. Portland mayor reacts

“Hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in wages hang in the balance,” said Charlie Hales.. “It is my hope that both sides quickly come to a fair and equitable solution to the dispute, and that Hanjin reverses its decision to withdraw from Terminal 6. The sound business factors that first led Hanjin to make Portland a hub for incoming and outgoing international commerce remain true.” 

(SOURCE: OregonLive.com)

6. Far-flung ramifications

 Amata Coleman Radwagen — the Republican Congressional delegate (non-voting) for America Samoa — painted a grim picture for how her area has been affected.

From OregonLive.com:

“There’s only one lifeline and it is sea shipping,” she said. “Our shelves are bare, our people are getting hungry and the price of goods has skyrocketed.”

7. Workers in Stayton lose income

“For me, what’s sad is I had to furlough 180 people for two weeks in January because we’re missing supplies,” Marty Olson of Mastercraft Furniture said to the assembled crowd during SEDCOR’s monthly luncheon. “I’m dependent on the ports working. And in a small town like Stayton, the ripple effect of not giving people a paycheck for two weeks … it hurts.”

(SOURCE: Statesman Journal)

8. Federal lawmakers lobby Obama

Oregon Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, sent letters urging President Barack Obama to employ the Taft-Hartley Act to force resolution.

From their second letter, as reported by OregonLive.com: “We are concerned that if a new collective bargaining agreement is not reached soon, thousands of Oregon jobs will be in jeopardy, and in the long term, demand for American made products and agricultural commodities could significantly diminish. As you well know, the recent announcement that Hanjin Shipping Company will no longer call Portland after March 9 represents a loss of 78% of the shipping volume at Terminal 6 which has supported over 650 jobs and $33 million in annual wages.”

 9. ICTSI CEO speaks — and labor responds

“It’s not if we can get a company (to call on Portland),” ICTSI’s Elvis Ganda said in an interview with the Portland Business Journal. “It’s when and will we have the support of labor to keep them here.”

“There is nothing more that ILWU Local 8 wants than for ICTSI to be successful in Portland,” the union said in a prepared statement. “To do so, ICTSI must change its business model to conform with United States standards. That means that it must treat its customers, vendors and workforce with dignity and respect. With respect to its collective bargaining obligations, it must respect the dictates of its labor agreement and the industry relationships associated with it.”

“It’s hard to bring a customer in when the union is doing all they can to drive them out,” he said.  “We’re plan A and B. The port isn’t letting us out of our lease and we’re not asking out of the lease,” Ganda said. “It is my plan to make Terminal 6 a success, and that includes working with the ILWU.”

10. A new governor weighs in

On her first day in office, newly-minted Gov. Kate Brown issued a statement urging resolution:

“Our local farmers, small businesses and communities in Oregon are in limbo because of the uncertainty surrounding the West Coast and Oregon ports,” said Brown in a release published by the PBJ. “We urge all parties to rise above their differences and find a common solution to avoid the disruptions that are beginning to suppress our efforts to ensure a strong, growing economy across the state.”