ILWU Members from West Coast Ports Travel to Support KEX Grainhandlers

Top row, from left to right: Seth Barnhart, Lance Paul, Vince Meyer, Steve Utter Jr., Mark Boultinghouse, Ron Nelson, Alexis Nelson, Micah Brennan, Dustin Satcher, Tom Sager, Brandon Hendrick. Bottom row, from left to right: Mike Boyd, Larry Barnhart, Korbin Utter, Landon Utter, J.J. Burkey, Pat Brennan, Dave Thomas, Colton Aschoff. Present but not
pictured: Tim Hansen, Brian Grimes, Matt Aschoff, James Shimer, Chuck Knighten, Gary Gates.

More than 300 ILWU members from ports up and down the West Coast led a spirited march through a chilly Northwest rain on November 8 to make their voices loud and clear at the gate of Kalama Export Company (KEX).

They shouted their demand in unison:

What do we want?
Equal benefits!
When do we want them?
Now!

The “benefits” means the security of the ILWU-PMA pension and welfare plan. Ironically, the company that owns KEX already provides these benefits – but only to workers at one of the two grain export facilities that it owns on the Columbia River. Pacificor, a joint venture of some of the world’s most powerful companies, owns KEX at the Port of Kalama, Washington, and also owns Columbia Export Terminal (CET) 50 miles upriver at the Port of Portland, Oregon.Workers at the Portland terminal receive ILWU-PMA benefits, but workers at the Kalama terminal cope with an inferior health plan and a 401(k) account that offers no guarantees of long term retirement security.

“It’s not right that the same employer has one standard for its workers in Portland but another for its workers in Kalama,” said Local 21 President Billy Roberts. “The work is the same, the hazards are the same, and the need for family health benefits and retirement security are the same,” said Roberts. “But the employer has refused, for three years at the negotiating table, to meet the industry standard on benefits. KEX needs to meet the same standard for its grainhandlers in Kalama as it already does for its grainhandlers in Portland.”

Local 21’s support on Nov. 7 was unmistakable in a small town like Kalama: 300 Longshore workers chanted their message along the railroad tracks that led to KEX gates, and they gathered at KEX in bright orange shirts that read, “ILWU Grainhandlers United for Equal Benefits for KEX Workers.”

About 100 of those ILWU members traveled from as far away as Tacoma and Seattle to the north, and San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles and Long Beach to the south. Elected officers from the ILWU International Headquarters and other West Coast ports took to the mic to urge Pacificor to meet the industry standard at KEX. International Vice President (Mainland) Ray Familathe, International Secretary- Treasurer Willie Adams, and Coast Committeemen Cam Williams and Frank Ponce De Leon all boosted the crowd with powerful messages of solidarity from the Coast Longshore Division.

“Pacificor’s representatives have flat-out refused to consider the union’s demand that the employer provide the same benefits in Kalama as they do in Portland,” said Cam Williams, Coast Committeeman. “Our message to Pacificor’s executives at Gavilon, Marubeni and ADM is to return to the negotiating table and reach an agreement that meets the
very simple demand of providing equal benefits at both facilities.” Pacificor is a joint venture including:

• Japan-based Marubeni (doing business as Gavilon)

• Japan-based Mitsubishi

• US-based Archer Daniels Midland

Proud Local 4 family member:
Jameson McEllrath enthusiastically carried his own weight – perhaps literally – at the Nov. 8 rally to support Local 21 members at KEX. Introducing himself to many of his 300 fellow marchers, Jameson borrowed KEX worker Pat Brennan’s picket sign and made his
support clear.

The other Northwest grain elevators that provide ILWU-PMA pension and welfare benefits are Columbia Export Terminal (CET) in Portland, Export Grain Terminal (EGT) in Longview, Louis Dreyfus Commodities (LDC) in Portland, Louis Dreyfus Commodities (LDC) in Seattle, TEMCO in Portland, TEMCO in Kalama, TEMCO in Tacoma, and United Grain Company (UGC) in Vancouver, WA.

Ownership of what is now the KEX terminal has changed hands several times over its 3-decade history. The workers at the terminal originally entered the union with an affiliated agreement, and are fed up with the employers’ substandard benefits.

The local newspaper, The Daily News, wrote a lengthy article about the march and noted that “dockworkers overwhelmingly rejected a previous company offer.”

“The grainhandlers at KEX have the support they need to stand strong,” said Williams.

 

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