West Coast Ports Shut Down Entirely This Weekend

Image courtesy of Corey Templeton

The backlog of unloaded cargo shops on the West Coast of the United States has had some odd effects on the world. We’ve pointed out some small, sometimes amusing issues: Asian automakers must use air cargo to ship needed parts to their factories in the U.S., and McDonald’s Japan airlifted emergency fries as it deals with a shortage. Yet all this hilarity could have serious consequences for the American economy if the current issues continue.

Port workers and shipping lines even disagree about what’s even happening at the West Coast ports. Reuters reports that while the group that represents shipping lines, the Pacific Maritime Association, claims that the union is sending fewer workers than needed and deliberately slowing their work down as a negotiating tactic, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union counters that changes that shipping lines have made mean it takes longer for the longshoremen to do their jobs.

Whatever the reason for the slowdown, the backlog is beginning to hurt the economy as a whole: the majority of cargo from Asia enters the United States at those ports.

This weekend, the Pacific Maritime Association shut down operations all weekend long. Normally, they would pay overtime on weekends, but they didn’t want to pay out overtime hours while the union is (allegedly) intentionally slowing down their work.

A work slowdown is a time-honored method used by workers during labor disputes. (It generally only works when the participating workers have some kind of protection from being fired.) A slowdown doesn’t go as far as a strike, but does create an incentive for the other side to negotiate with the union.

West Coast port operations resume, more labor talks scheduled [Reuters]

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.