Concerned that 50 jobs at the new Port of Longview grain terminal could go to non-union workers, more than 150 longshoremen and other union supporters staged an informational picket line Friday afternoon at one of Longview's busiest intersections.
Union President Dan Coffman said EGT Development, which owns the terminal, has not responded for two months to a counteroffer from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union local 21 to work at the grain terminal. The union is objecting to EGT's proposal that dockworkers not get paid overtime for working three, 12-hour shifts a week, Coffman said, calling the company's posture "a total disrespect to us."
The $200 million grain terminal is expected to start operating this summer, adding 8 million tons of capacity to the already busy Columbia River grain storage system. Most of the grain is destined for Japan and China.
EGT, a Portland company, is jointly owned by St. Louis-based Bunge North America, Japan-based Itochu Corp. and Korean shipper Pan Ocean STX. A call to Bunge was not immediately returned.
Gathering where 15th Avenue meets Oregon and Tennant ways, picketers held signs reading "Port of Longview Keep Taxpayers Money Local" and "Stop Giveaways to Foreign Companies" with EGT circled and crossed out.
Other local unions representing chemical workers, papermakers, construction trades and plumbers attended the rally.
The grain terminal is expected to employ 50 workers, create an additional 30 spinoff jobs and generate about $2 million annually in property taxes.
Coffman said the union is also upset that the port agreed to a "most favored nations" clause in its contract with EGT, which the union contends essentially guarantees that EGT gets the best lease deal of all port tenants. Last summer, EGT argued that the port gave a better deal to Skyline Steel to build a new pipe manufacturing plant, so the port agreed to give EGT a $250,000 credit on rail improvements at the port.
The credit sets a dangerous precedent for future port development, Coffman said.
"EGT is going to have a say on how the port expands," he said.
Ken O'Hollaren, Port of Longview executive director, said the most favored nations clause is common in contracts with large-scale tenants, and the $250,000 credit was an unusual case.
The clause "will absolutely not adversely impact port expansion and securing future tenants or customers," O'Hollaren said.
He added that the port is not involved in the contract discussions between the union and EGT, but the port supports an agreement for longshoremen to work at the terminal.