Dockworkers Union Files For Bankruptcy

It hasn’t been a good time for labor recently, and that is highlighted by the recent bankruptcy filing by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.

The ILWU, which represents West Coast dockworkers, last week filed for bankruptcy protection. The union is facing a lawsuit that alleges unfair work stoppages and work slowdowns.

The union represents about 22,000 warehouse and dock workers who are employed at ports all along the U.S. West Coast – from Washington state in the north all the way down to San Diego. Included in that range is America’s busiest container port – Los Angeles and Long Beach.

That port is also facing litigation with the International Container Terminal Services Inc.’s Oregon branch, which is also alleging illegal work slowdowns and work stoppages.

In 2019, a federal court ruled that the labor union engaged in labor practices that were illegal between 2013 and 2017. This was done through work stoppages and slowdowns.

As a result of the decision, the ILWU was liable for $93.6 million in total damages against ICTSI Oregon, which had operated one shopping terminal during that time at the Port of Portland.

Those damages were later reduced by a judge in Oregon to $19.1 million. The ICTSI rejected that decision, though, which brought forth a new trial. ICTSI is seeking damages between $48 million and $142 million.

On the other side, the ILWU argued that their damages should be no more than $3.9 million. It has also said that it doesn’t have the money to cover their legal expenses that would certainly come as a result of the new trial.

In a recent press release, Willie Adams, the president of the ILWU, said:

“While we have attempted numerous times to resolve the decade-long litigation with ICTSI Oregon Inc., at this point, the union can no longer afford to defend against ICTSI’s scorched-earth litigation tactic.

“We intend to use the [C]hapter 11 process to implement a plan that will bring this matter to resolution and ensure that our Union continues to do its important work for our members and the community. The Officers are confident that we are taking the right step to put our organization on the best path forward – and we are optimistic for all that is ahead.”

In its bankruptcy filing, the labor union listed that it had assets of a little more than $11 million, with roughly $9.5 million of cash on hand. By using Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the union will have the chance to restructure its operations and resolve any outstanding debts that it has with its creditors.

In response to the bankruptcy, ICTSI said it was just the “latest maneuver to avoid accountability” from the labor union.

A new contract for six years was ratified in August, providing dockworkers in the U.S. with increases in benefits and pay. It applies to all 22,000 employees who work at the West Coast’s 29 ports.