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Tensions rise at dock strike

by: KOIN LOCAL 6 - Columbia Grain in Portland, as seen on their website July 15, 2013.Tensions along the Columbia Grain picket line forced the company to put up fencing restricting picketers access to the security guards and those who cross the picket lines during a labor dispute at the Terminal 5 facility in North Portland.

The lockout began May 4 when Columbia Grain against the ILWU Local 8. The company wants Locals 4 and 8 to agree to the same contract grain handlers have in Longview.

Workers have not had a contract since September 2012, and the union has been in place at the company since 1934 under various grain operators. The main sticking point in the negotiations are working conditions.

In one incident, Portland police arrested a union member accused of animal neglect. The man, wearing a mask, cape and hood, stuck a raccoon into a fence as dockworkers shouted foul language at security guards for Columbia Grain. Others made animal noises and asked the guards — all men of color — if they’d like to eat raccoon.

The union said, “Racially-generated remarks or conduct on the picket line will result in a minimum $500 fine.”

KOIN 6 News learned at least two members have been cited and will be fined. Other union members told KOIN 6 News they are disgusted by the racist behavior.

Company officials said, “While Columbia Grain recognizes the picketers right to publicize their labor dispute and even to engage in name calling, it cannot tolerate this type of racism on its property.”

The local longshoreman’s union is 6.5% diverse — which is three times greater than the diversity of the state of Oregon.