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Maritime unions cry foul on grain companies

September 29, 2013 J

Two maritime unions say United Grain Corp. at the Port of Vancouver and Columbia Grain in Portland are employing an unqualified, nonunion tug and towboat operator to move grain amid the companies’ ongoing lockout of union dockworkers, exposing people and the environment to danger on the region’s waterways.

The International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots and the Inlandboatmen’s Union are honoring picket lines maintained by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. That means the maritime unions aren’t moving grain for the companies. In their absence, United Grain and Columbia Grain “have called in a fly-by-night tug and towboat operator using questionable equipment and unqualified tugboat personnel with no prior experience on the Columbia and Willamette rivers,” according to a news release from the maritime unions.

The two maritime unions also say the U.S. Coast Guard is “turning a blind eye” to the situation.

Pat McCormick, spokesman for the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Association — which includes United Grain and Columbia Grain — said it was more appropriate for the Coast Guard, which enforces maritime law, to respond.

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