West Coast Ports Will Take A Split 4-Day Weekend Off

Image courtesy of Corey Templeton

It’s hard to understand the contract dispute over workers at the ports on the west coast of the United States, because the two different sides can’t even agree on what they’re arguing about. Either longshoremen are deliberately slowing down their work to protest while still getting paid, or shipping changes have caused a backlog for diligent workers. Either way, there are a lot of containers of just about everything, waiting on ships.

Today is a holiday according to the port workers’ contracts, and so is Monday. Instead of paying overtime for what shipping line representatives say is deliberately slowed-down work, they’re simply shutting everything down for those four days, as they did last weekend. The unions, meanwhile, claim that the owners are trying to force a lockout, and also making the backlog even worse as a negotiating tactic.

We know, for example, that at the very busy port of Los Angeles/Long Beach, uncertified crane operators are no longer allowed to do that job for safety reasons. The union made that decision, and shipping line owners believe that making fewer crane operators available in general is causing the backlog.

The effects of the slowdown are going to affect American consumers soon, and cause more problems than French fry shortages and chartered planes full of Subaru dashboards. For example, the New York Times reports that citrus growers in California have lost about $500 million in export business because containers headed out from the ports would have to sit for ten days.

West Coast Labor Dispute Brings Crippling Delays to Seaports [New York Times]