Is Port of Olympia near deal with new union? Monday comments sound hopeful

A Port of Olympia commission discussion on Monday suggests that there just might be light at the end of the tunnel for the port and a new union known as Local 47 B.

For nearly two years, the port and 47 B, which is part of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, have been negotiating its first contract. From September 2022 to February 2023, the two sides agreed on 16 articles of the contract, port HR Director Ben McDonald said Monday, but couldn’t agree on wages.

Since then, the port and union officials have been in mediation through the state Public Employment Relations Commission, he said.

McDonald termed recent mediations as “successful,” and if they can come to terms on wages it should “open the floodgates to the rest of the articles in the contract.”

Monday’s union negotiations discussion was triggered by an update on the port’s legal representation for the negotiations. Since April 2022, the port has been working with Chimelik, Sitkin, Davis, which is now known as CSD Attorneys at Law.

Their contract with the port expired at the end of 2023. The new proposal is a contract that would take them from Feb. 26, 2024, through Dec. 31, 2025, for an amount not to exceed $100,000.

The port spent about $80,000 under the previous contract, McDonald said.

Commissioner Jasmine Vasavada wasn’t happy with the contract length, saying she’d rather see a six-month term at $50,000 so that the port can send a signal that “we really are working to get to an agreement on wages for the union.”

She also likes the timing of a six-month contract as it relates to the hiring of a new executive director, giving them “reason to review and rethink how we move forward with contract representation.”

The port is close to hiring its next executive director. The two finalists, Mike Reid and Alexandra Smith, were set to be interviewed again by the commission on Tuesday.

The new legal contract is set to come before the port on Feb. 26.

Where’s the contract? Residents blast Port of Olympia over lack of deal for new union