Chamber of Commerce asks for help as Western ports are disrupted

Chamber of Commerce asks for help as Western ports are disrupted

It looked like business as usual at the port of Seattle and ports across the West Coast on Monday after alleged disruptions impacted work over the weekend.

 ,or PMA, which represents maritime companies, said operations came to a halt in some places over the weekend due to workers leaving their shifts or not unloading carriers.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union, or ILWU, denied these claims. ILWU president Willie Adams said, “Despite what you are hearing from PMA, West Coast ports are open as we continue to work under our expired collective bargaining agreement.”

Longshoremen have been laboring without a contract for nearly a year. The union has argued that the shipping companies made $510 billion in profits during the pandemic, and workers deserve a cut. 

But the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, citing the Wall Street Journal, has said that the union’s request would double wages over the life of the contract.

Maritime companies say freight rates have dropped in recent months, and they are reluctant to lock into any long term-pay hikes.

Business leaders locally and nationally are worried about what the impact might be to the supply chain and the 58,000 local jobs in western Washington that the ports support.

In a letter to the White House, Chamber of Commerce President Suzanne Clark asked President Joe Biden to appoint an independent mediator to help reach a voluntary agreement, saying that over half of the nation’s imports move through the West Coast ports. 

In asking for the federal government to step in, the Chamber president noted the government had to step in to resolve two of the last three negotiations.

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