A lawsuit dating back to 2012 has turned the financial screws on the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, forcing the organization to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, the union announced Sunday.
The decade-old litigation between the union and an affiliate of the International Container Terminal Services Inc. began over what was determined to be illegal tactics when workers for years caused operational disruptions at the Port of Portland. After a 10-day trial in late 2019, a jury found ICTSI was entitled to over $93.6 million in damages.
The union challenged the amount and, in March 2020, a judge determined the maximum amount owed by the union was just over $19 million.
“The ILWU was prepared to accept that and find a way to pay the amount at that time,” the union stated in an Oct. 1 memo to all members. ICTSI, however, has rejected the ruling, the memo states, and a new trial was scheduled in which the terminal operator is seeking between $48 million and $142 million in damages.
In the union’s Sept. 30 filing, it listed its assets and liabilities in the range of $1 million to $10 million, far below even the reduced damages it was facing.
“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,” union President Willie Adams said in a statement.
ICTSI, for its part, said the bankruptcy filing is the union’s “latest maneuver to avoid accountability,” according to a Reuters report.
The union said the bankruptcy process won’t disrupt its operation, adding that it will be “business as usual” for its members and affiliates.
The union stated it would file customary “First Day” motions with the court to maintain its cash management system as it works through its reorganization process.
ILWU President Willie Adams in a statement said the organization, which represents over 40,000 members (including some 22,000 dockworkers) across 50 locals and affiliates on the U.S. and Canada West Coasts, will use the Chapter 11 process to “implement a plan that will bring this matter to resolution.”