A work slowdown at the Pacific Northwest’s two largest ports Wednesday began affecting businesses as distant as Chicago as major port terminals stopped accepting export cargoes and cut the pace of imports by half. Fruit growers in Eastern Washington, retailers and exporters in the Midwest were among those who felt the effects Wednesday of the labor dispute between union longshore workers and their employers at the ports of Tacoma and Seattle.
That slowdown by the International Longshore Workers Union was delaying the departure of ships at terminals in Seattle and Tacoma and was on the verge of causing shipping lines to divert their vessels to other ports.
The labor dispute has caused several major terminals to ban new export cargoes entering their terminals and to restrict some truckers from picking up imported containers because of the lack of chassis on which to carry those containers. The union contends that chassis shortage is the result of terminal mismanagement, not the result of any work slowdown.
The union and the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents terminal operators and shipping lines, have been negotiating for six months to reach a new long-term labor contract for all West Coast ports. The prior contract expired July 1. Union members under an informal agreement with the PMA had been working under the terms of their old agreement until Friday when they began cutting the pace of work at the terminals, according to the PMA.