International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) representatives from Canada, Hawaii, and California rallied support for the speedy signing of a contract for Local 47B, a union formed in April 2022 representing the Port’s marina, fuel dock, and boatyard employees.
Seventeen people, eight of whom were ILWU representatives from outside Washington, spoke during the public comments section at the Port of Olympia Commission meeting on Monday, March 27, to appeal once more the signing of a fair contract after having done so a month ago.
Ron Clough, a representative of ILWU Local 142, a Hawaii-based union and the largest ILWU local union with 16,000 members, appealed to the Port to step up and do what is right for the workers.
“I'm here to support [Local 47B],” he said. “They all need to be treated with respect. Spending money in unlawful ways and prolonging negotiation goes nowhere. I'm asking you to step up and do what you're here to do and make this thing work.”
People who spoke during public comments also reminded the commission of several alleged violations, which union members raised to the Port in September 2022.
Olympia resident Glen Ray brought up the issue of delayed promotion and denial of overtime for employees who support the union. He also mentioned the termination of a pro-union employee who reported the Port to state regulators after the employee was assigned to work on a rooftop without a safety harness.
These allegations compelled ILWU representatives like Genevieve Lorenzo from ILWU Canada to warn the Port that more west coast ports are becoming aware of their “anti-union tactics.”
“The news of the Port commission’s anti-union tactics has spread up and down the coast of this country and mine,” Lorenzo said. “You have broken the law. You have violated the rights of workers. And by bringing attention to your bureaucratic impotence, you have embarrassed yourself on an international level.”
Port Executive Director Sam Gibboney said she took issue with these allegations and said that “there have been no findings” to prove that the violations were true.
Other ILWU members who spoke during public comments were from the Inlandboatmen's Union of the Pacific, which is the marine division of ILWU, as well three California-based unions.
ILWU members say mediation would delay process
Negotiations for the contract of Local 47B started in July. When negotiations reached an impasse, the Port requested the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) to step in as a mediator last month.
Members of ILWU Local 47, an established union that represents the local terminal workers, disagreed with PERC’s involvement. Lee Rose, president of Local 47, alleged that the Port went into mediation after its staff was “offended” by public comments made by union members during a commission meeting in February.
Gibboney told The JOLT that she has never spoken to Lee Rose during negotiations and is uncertain what Lee Rose was referring to as far as the Port staff being offended.
“I can say that I've never had a conversation with Mr. Lee Rose about the bargaining nor is he a representative so I'm not sure what he's referring to,” she said.
Gibboney further explained that they availed mediation services from PERC as negotiations were not progressing even after the two parties had already agreed to half of the contract.
“We got to a point where it did not appear that we're going to be able to make progress between the two parties,” she said. “So then we availed ourselves of the tool that PERC offers, which is mediation services.”
“We spoke with the ILWU first, asked if they wanted to do a joint request for a mediator [but] they declined that,” she added.
ILWU representatives believed that acquiring a mediator would only delay the process.
Jim Rose, a member of ILWU Local 47, said during public comments that they were told that mediation would not start until another two months. He noted that even before the Port decided to enter mediation, they were only meeting with the bargaining team of Local 47B for two hours every other week.
“I really can't believe the executive team tried to claim that two hours every two weeks as bargaining time was reasonable and equitable,” Jim Rose said. “At this rate, the executives will retire before we ever see a signed contract.”
Though the commission does not normally reply to public comments, Gibboney responded, stating that PERC is responsible for scheduling mediation meetings. She assured them that PERC was working to find a schedule that accommodates all three parties.
As for the Port only meeting Local 47B’s bargaining every other week, Gibboney told The JOLT that it was “a common cadence and pace to negotiate in a brand new contract.”
Gibboney asserts Port engaged bargaining team in good faith
After a half-hour of unfavorable comments made by the public and ILWU members, Gibboney insisted that the Port engaged with the bargaining team in good faith.
“From the beginning since the first petition was filed, the Port of Olympia has recognized the rights of workers in Washington State to organize and collectively bargain. We have engaged in good faith in that process,” Gibboney said.
“We do look forward to continuing at the bargaining table and coming to an agreement that meets the needs of the ILWU members and that of Port Olympia.”
Commissioner Joe Downing also responded, saying that he recognized the right of the marina workers to unionize and that he has full trust in Gibboney to complete the negotiations.