UPDATE (Nov. 6, 5:27 p.m. PT) — A jury in Portland has awarded ICTSI Oregon Inc., the Port of Portland’s former container ship terminal operator, $93.6 million in damages from unions.
The verdict, delivered Monday, is a blow to organized labor and follows two weeks of a federal civil trial.
The jury found the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and Local 8, the Portland chapter, engaged in unlawful labor practices at times between Aug. 14, 2013 and March 31, 2017. The jury also found those labor practices were a major factor in causing damages to ICTSI.
The jury determined 55% of the award must be paid by the ILWU and 45% by the local Portland chapter.
“The jury’s decision validates ICTSI’s determination to seek justice in an unfortunate situation that impacted many local businesses, communities and the people that depended on Terminal 6 as a vital connection to international trade,” Elvis Ganda, president and CEO of North America for ICTSI Oregon, said in a statement.
ICTSI Oregon ran the state’s lone container ship port until March 2017, when it ended its 25-year lease with the Port of Portland early by paying $11.45 million.
The company and the union were engaged in a yearslong labor dispute that eventually led to the loss of Portland’s container ship service in May 2016. There have been efforts to revive container service at the port, but those efforts have limped along.
As recently as 2015, Portland had weekly container ship service. But the carriers complained it was taking too long to load and unload ships because of a nearly three-year local labor dispute between the ILWU and its then-employer, ICTSI Oregon.
Being about 100 miles upriver from the coast, Portland was already a tough sell to shippers, compared to the larger ports at Seattle and Tacoma, Washington. The added local labor challenge proved not to be worth it to the carriers.
After the container ships left, farmers and other exporters were forced to truck or rail their goods to Puget Sound ports, where they are then loaded onto ships.
“While we respect the process, we disagree with the excessive damages award of $93 million, which supposedly compensated ICTSI for lost profits and some additional costs for a five-year period,” ILWU President Willie Adams said. “We believe the jury’s damages award is inconsistent with the evidence, and we will raise these concerns with the Court, and, if necessary, on appeal.”
On Tuesday, the day after the verdict, the ILWU filed a motion asking the judge to postpone entering a judgment in the case. They also said they’ll also move for a new trial.