ILWU Files Bankruptcy Claim
The International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU), which represents approximately 40,000 dockworkers up and down the West Coast, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Saturday night, according to a FreightWaves article by Greg Miller (a.k.a. Miller Time):
The ILWU “will continue to operate as usual throughout the restructuring process,” the union said in a statement on Sunday morning. It plans to “continue honoring its employee and payroll obligations in the ordinary course of business.”
The bankruptcy filing was precipitated by a massive damage award and ongoing litigation in a long-running dispute between ILWU Local 8, the union chapter in Portland, Oregon, and terminal operator ICTSI Oregon.
Illegal ILWU Actions that Led to Bankruptcy
I’ve written a great deal over the years about what the ILWU pulled at the Port of Portland. Over two jobs that never even belonged to the union, the ILWU slowed down port operations so much container ships could no longer call on the port.
Those two jobs, plugging and unplugging reefer containers, always belonged to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). However, in its bid to control every job up and down the West Coast ports, the mighty ILWU flexed its muscle to punish the terminal operator for daring to leave those two jobs in the hands of the union that had always performed them and warn all the West Coast ports of the possible consequences of not handing over any other jobs that had always been performed by other unions.
The ILWU’s actions, which were found to be unlawful, damaged the port, its terminal owners, IBEW, local truckers, shippers, and itself – which is quite obvious as now it has filed for bankruptcy protection.
If you want a more in depth look at what the ILWU did at the Port of Portland and the fallout from it, here is a handful of posts on it:
If you don’t have time to go back and read those stories but gave the headlines a quick glance, you probably noticed the $93M verdict a jury hit the ILWU with after finding the union guilty of illegal slowdowns and work stoppages. That $93M verdict is what ultimately led to the union filing for bankruptcy protection.
The jury found both the Local ILWU 8 and ILWU National to be guilty.
What’s Happening Now
The union has continued to fight the verdict ever since it was reached and even got a victory a few years ago when a judge drastically reduced the damages ILWU was ordered to pay. Miller Time gives the details:
In March 2020, Oregon District Judge Michael Simon dramatically reduced the amount due, ruling that damages should not exceed $19.1 million.
While the sides of the case continue to fight in court, the union told its members, “Unfortunately, the ILWU cannot afford to continue to litigate this case,” according to Miller’s FreightWaves article.
So now the ILWU will use Chapter 11 to reorganize, renegotiate, and resolve the debt.
Unfortunately, labor action causing slowdowns at the ports is not an uncommon thing. Particularly when its time for the ILWU to negotiate a new master contract. This pattern led shippers to divert cargo from West Coast to East and Gulf Coast ports over the last couple years to protect themselves from potential cargo delays in the lead-up to and period of contract negotiations between the ILWU and employers represented by the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA). East Coast ports are still enjoying a market share increase of imports.
Here are a bunch of articles from the last year or so relating to the ILWU and ports: