Ports shut down to ships over the weekend as labor talks continue

CMA CGM Tosca at T18 at the Port of Seattle, Photo by Don Wilson for the Port of Seattle.
CMA CGM Tosca at T18 at the Port of Seattle, Photo by Don Wilson for the Port of Seattle.

The Pacific Maritime Association announced Friday that all West Coast ports, including the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma, will be shut down to cargo vessel traffic over the weekend, as contract negotiations continue between the ports’ management companies and the longshoreman’s union. The operations will restart on Monday, according to the announcement.

The contract negotiations have been contentious, and have resulted in gridlock at the ports, affecting international trade including putting hurting international sales for Washington state produce growers. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union has maintained the gridlock is a result of PMA companies cutting hours. The PMA says it cut hours in response to job actions by the union.

“After three months of union slowdowns, it makes no sense to pay extra for less work, especially if there is no end in sight to the union’s actions which needlessly brought West Coast ports to the brink of gridlock,” said PMA spokesman Wade Gates in a prepared statement.

ILWU spokesman Craig Merrilees told the San Jose Mercury News, “Customers have a right to their containers and deserve better treatment.”

According to the PMA announcement, yard, rail and gate operations may continue through the weekend. 

Gov. Jay Inslee released a statement, encouraging both sides to keep talking despite the weekend closure.

“I am deeply disappointed that Washington’s ports will shut down this weekend. Our state depends heavily on trade and the closures, though temporary, will affect businesses across this state, from agriculture to heavy manufacturing as well as the many workers who help move goods through the ports,” he said in his prepared statement.

A lockout at the ports have been looming, though the Long Beach Press-Telegram reported earlier this week that union says the sides are closer to an agreement.

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