Follow us:

Politics Northwest

The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

August 1, 2014 at 4:02 PM

State senator calls Inslee action in grain labor dispute unlawful

Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, has written a letter to a state ethics board alleging that Gov. Jay Inslee acted improperly when pulling back state troopers last month who were escorting grain inspectors into the Port of Vancouver.

The question of trooper escorts has come up in the middle of a protracted contract battle between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) at the port and the United Grain Corporation. Grain inspectors have reportedly been threatened by union workers, who have been locked out since February 2013.

“During the last month, Governor Inslee has unlawfully involved himself in a labor dispute, using his executive authority in an attempt to force a private corporation to negotiate with a labor union,” Benton wrote in a Wednesday letter to the Executive Ethics Board. “He has also failed in his basic obligation to ensure the safety of public employees in the performance of their duties. By his failure to act, he has jeopardized a multibillion dollar industry in our state.”

“By removing the security escort, however, Governor Inslee is effectively forcing a private corporation to shut down until it negotiates with its union,” Benton added.

Jennifer Sargent, spokeswoman for the ILWU, said Inslee made the right decision.

“Gov. Inslee did the right thing by returning public law enforcement to their rightful position as a neutral party in a labor dispute,” Sargent wrote in an email. “Washington taxpayers should never have been forced to provide private security to a private Japanese corporation in the first place.”

But Pat McCormick, spokesman for United Grain Corporation, said neutral parties other than grain inspectors,  like the river pilot and customs agents, have been able to enter the port without any issues.

Jaime Smith, spokeswoman for Inslee, declined to comment on Benton’s complaint.

Comments | More in Governor, Politics Northwest, State government, Washington state Republican Party | Topics: Don Benton, Jay Inslee


Advertising
The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►