Members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union have rejected the "last, best and final" contract offer from Northwest grain terminal owners.
The dispute involves six terminals that operate under a single agreement with the ILWU. Almost 3,000 staff have been working without a contract since September. Owners are trying to secure a similar contract to the one secured by Export Grain Terminal, or EGT, at Longview, Wash., in January.
But that negotiation was hard fought with demonstrations where more than 100 people were arrested and some freight cars overturned.
The co-chairman of the union negotiating committee, Rich Austin, said in a statement that the ILWU wants to return to the bargaining table.
The terminal owners issued a statement expressing disappointment at the vote and saying the impasse was not about wages, but workplace rules. It says the ILWU has given competitors a better deal on working conditions.
Owners have been laying the legal groundwork for a possible lockout. It could occur anytime now. Owners have brought replacement workers into the area who are willing to cross picket lines to ensure grain exports continue.