Over 3,000 members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) who have been working at nine Pacific Northwest grain export terminals without a contract since September 30, have overwhelmingly rejected the "last, best, and final" contract offered by grain shippers, setting the stage for would could be a long and bitter lockout. Grain operators have reportedly contracted with a Delaware company that specializes in providing strikebreakers, many of whom are already on call, waiting in area hotel rooms for the lockout to begin.
The ILWU claims that the grain terminal operators have demanded more than 750 concessions from local workers.
About a quarter of the nation's grain exports and about half its wheat exports move through Pacific Northwest ports, including the Port of Seattle's grain facility at Terminal 86, just north of the downtown. According to the Washington Association of Wheat Growers, Washington is the 4th largest wheat producing state in the nation, and at $925 million, wheat is Washington's third most valuable agricultural product (after apples and milk). Between 85 and 90 percent of Washington's wheat harvest is exported overseas.
This is big business for both Washington wheat growers and grain exporters, not to mention the 3,000 workers whose jobs are now being threatened by professional scabs. So if the industry does lockout the union and bring in replacement workers, don't be surprised if the dispute turns nasty awfully damn quick.