As the slowdowns continue at the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma, workers are being sent home, agriculture containers full of food are at risk of rotting, and truck drivers are at a standstill, losing money as the hours tick by.
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union and Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), which represent terminal operators and shipping lines, have been in contract negotiations since May to replace a six-year agreement that ran out July 1.
But, over the weekend, local unions in Tacoma and Seattle reduced container movement at the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma terminals from 25 to 35 containers per hour to 10 to 18 per hour, creating a backlog, said Wade Gates, spokesman for the PMA.
The disruptions come as goods destined for holiday shoppers are being unloaded at unionized ports from San Diego to Bellingham. The slowdown also threatens to worsen congestion at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports.
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In response, terminal operators have started sending union workers home early, further adding to the slowdown at the terminals.
“We are experiencing congestion at the terminal gates, terminals are filling up with containers and ships are being delayed from leaving,” said Port of Tacoma spokeswoman Tara Mattina. “We know these delays affect every part of the supply chain — especially truck drivers, cargo owners and Eastern Washington farmers trying to get their products to market.”
Ryan Nesbitt, who runs the international logistics of an apple-shipping company in Yakima, said he has 100 containers of apples sitting at the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma that should have been shipped by now. Each container has about $30,000 worth of apples inside, he said.
However, what he is more concerned about are the truckers who haul his apples to the ports. Each container is refrigerated and once the container is loaded on a truck, the driver takes possession and is responsible for those apples — meaning when they are sitting at the ports for days waiting to be loaded, they have to pay to keep the generators running and apples refrigerated.
“The truckers are footing the bill for that,” Nesbitt said. “Those are not the guys who should be the ones suffering from this.”
A driver for Kennedy Transportation arrived to the Port of Tacoma on Wednesday night only to see two full lines of trucks already staged for loading the next day. After waiting at the Washington United Terminal through the night and Thursday, he was turned away.
“The terminal refused to take his container — meaning they wouldn’t take it off his truck,” Paul Bechard, a dispatcher for Kennedy Transportation, said. “That driver had to bring the full container back to Yakima where we currently have it running on a diesel generator.”
Kennedy said he dispatches about 30 trucks a day for export-container work, mainly refrigerated containers. The truckers haul everything from apples, to French fries to frozen beef, Bechard said, transporting about 225 loads a week.
The problem, as both Bechard and Nesbitt explain it — truck drivers are paid per load.
“If a truck is not moving, it is not making money,” Bechard said. “The more you sit the less you make.”
Coral Garnick: email@example.com,