‘Port slowdowns same effect as workers strike’

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) — From Seattle to Los Angeles — 29 ports in all — had cargo ships stacked up over the weekend waiting to be loaded and offloaded.

The Pacific Maritime Association, representing the port operators, suspended operations and said they would no longer pay employees premium wages for slowing things down on purpose.

“These slowdowns are having the same result as a workers’ strike, except that workers are still getting a paycheck,” said James McKenna, the president of the Pacific Maritime Association. “The slowdowns need to stop.”

Terminal 6 at the Port of Portland, Sept. 2, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)

The longshore workers union, ILWU, claims that “employers are deliberately worsening the existing congestion crisis to gain the upper hand at the bargaining table,” according to spokesperson Robert McElrath.

Regardless of who is to blame, the slowdowns are already starting to hurt businesses that depend on the ports to either bring in or ship out their products.

Continuing slowdowns at the Port of Portland could be devastating.

The Port of Portland says it generates $750 million in wages, $800 million in business revenue and $70 million in tax revenue.

The slowdown “drastically impacts not only the operations there at the terminal but there’s a domino effect all throughout the economy, and for businesses,” said the Port of Portland’s marine specialist Josh Thomas, “more than 900 businesses here in Oregon that depend on the port to function.”

The two sides have been without a contract since May and wages are not the major issue. The impasse is mainly over work rules and arbitration.

Their greatest fear is that the impasse continues and ends in a strike or a lockout.

KOIN 6 News learned the longshoremen and the Pacific Maritime Association were at the bargaining table Monday afternoon.

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