Unionized operating engineers said Tuesday they will take 25 to 35 jobs at the EGT Development grain terminal, sparking a possible battle with union longshoremen who say the jobs should be theirs.
The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 701, based in Gladstone, Ore., will work for Federal Way-based contractor General Construction Co., a subsidiary of Kiewit Infrastructure West Co., to operate the $200 million terminal on a permanent basis, union officals said.
Local 701 represents about 4,500 heavy equipment operators, heavy duty mechanics and technical and stationary engineers in Oregon and Southwest Washington.
A statement released by the union attributed the following remarks to union Business Manager Mark Holliday: "Local 701's members are trained to operate and maintain the EGT facility. Many of those jobs will go to Local 701's members living in Longview and the surrounding areas." said Mark Holliday.
Local 701's announcement now pits one union against another in competition for family-wage jobs at the grain terminal. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which has worked at all West Coast grain terminals since 1934, has argued the jobs should go to its Longview-based Local 21 under terms of its contract with the Port of Longview.
Jennifer Sargent, an ILWU spokeswoman, said the union was disappointed to see the union operating engineers acting "in collusion" with EGT and General Construction Co.
"It's unfortunate that Operating Engineers' 701 is allowing itself to be used in the manner that it is by the companies," Sargent said Tuesday.
She added the ILWU will continue to fight to work at EGT, though she declined to say the union's next move. Last week, nearly 100 ILWU protesters were arrested and cited for misdemeanor criminal trespassing after they tore down a fence on EGT property and blocked company workers from handling grain during the testing phase.
Still unanswered is how EGT will haul in grain for the terminal, which is expected to open this summer or early fall. Burlington Northern Santa Fe temporarily suspended last week shipments to EGT for safety reasons after hundreds of union longshoremen blocked tracks. Faced with the protest, the BNSF train crew members rerouted their mile-long train to Vancouver.
Gus Melonas, a BNSF spokesman, said railroad officials are discussing whether to lift the suspension.
Also up in the air is a federal court case concerning the dispute, which is set to go to trial next year.
EGT sued the port in January, claiming the company is not bound to hire ILWU labor on its 38-acre leased site. In response, Port of Longview attorneys have asked a judge to order EGT to honor its lease agreement, which includes the stipulation to hire Local 21 labor. Port attorneys said EGT's decision to hire General Construction does not change the port's legal position.
This week, a federal judge granted the ILWU's request to join the lawsuit on the Port of Longview's side.