Jay Inslee has removed police protection from state grain inspectors, resulting in their inability to do their jobs (inspect grain shipments) due to the death threats they have received from members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (Longshoremen) if they dare cross its picket line—a contract dispute between the Longshoremen and United Grain Co. is ongoing. Without inspection, grain shipments are left to sit in warehouses and go to waste. In other words, Inslee chose the side of a union threatening the lives of state employees at the expense of a billion dollar industry in Washington State.
United Grain has offered to pay for the police protection grain inspectors require. Their offer was refused. The governor’s office insisted that, under state law, the State Patrol “lacks authority to contract police services to private entities. Private companies wanting to pay for security services can work with protection and security brokers who often hire off-duty officers and troopers.” As Shift previously pointed out, under state law, it’s also illegal to threaten the lives of state employee. Of course, that fact goes on largely ignored by Inslee.
According to the Oregonian, Inslee “indicated in statements his office has issued to the media that his intent was to light a fire under the negotiations.” But, that’s not what he has done. Rather, Inslee is currently “torching the economies of eastern Washington and Oregon.” Inslee’s attempts to “light a fire under the negotiations” may have just made a bad situation worse. The Oregonian,
“The union has met with Vancouver terminal operator United Grain Corp., as well as Columbia Grain and Louis Dreyfus Commodities, which operate Portland terminals, twice in July. However, those meetings already were scheduled and would have happened without the governor’s move, said Pat McCormick, a spokesman for the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers. If anything, it’s more difficult to negotiate with harvest approaching and the Vancouver grain terminal all but shut down.
By involving himself in the labor dispute right before the start of the annual wheat harvest, Inslee has “pushed the stakes too high.” Wheat is the “economic foundation” of both eastern Washington and Oregon. Moreover, “United Grain terminal alone accounts for nearly 20 percent of wheat exports from the Pacific Northwest and 40 percent of exports to Japan.” Taking the side of the Longshoremen, Inslee placed the sole burden of responsibility on both Washington and Oregon’s grain industry—a burden that the industry may not be able to escape from.
As the Oregonian concludes, “Inslee should learn from his mistake and more carefully consider the risks and rewards before taking another action that affects a high-stakes labor dispute… It’s time to harvest wheat and to harvest a new labor agreement. And it’s the wrong time for the governor to be involved.”