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After months of labor friction, snarled cargo, accusations of slowdowns, court orders and missed ship calls, a potential double meltdown looms on Portland's waterfront. Two issues threaten to cripple international shipping, not just at the North Portland container yard, where trucks backed up more than a mile at times last summer, but also at Northwest terminals that handle a quarter of U.S. grain exports.

The fight over whether longshoremen or electricians get to plug, unplug and monitor refrigerated shipping containers at the Port of Portland lands in court again Tuesday. U.S. District Judge Michael Simon is expected to decide whether to hold the longshore union in contempt.

Meanwhile at talks cloaked in unusual secrecy, longshore union leaders continue negotiating with employers preparing for a lockout at Portland, Vancouver and Puget Sound grain terminals. A collapse in the talks refereed by a federal mediator would disrupt grain exports worth $10 billion a year, with longshoremen expected to protest on land and in boats.

Here are a few more details that show how much better things were 100 years ago before unions:

Longshore union: Demands shipping lines pay longshoremen lost wages every time rival electricians tend refrigerated containers.

Farmers: Watch nervously as bumper Northwest crops for sale at unusually high world prices pile up.

It's no mystery how unions even stronger than our own have contributed so much to the declines of Greece, Spain and Italy, among others. It's too bad we don't have a Reagan to do for the longshore union what he did for the air traffic controller union.

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