Labor dispute at 2 major ports jeopardizing state’s apple industry

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TACOMA — Labor disputes at two major ports in Puget Sound is clogging commerce.

Fruit growers and shippers in Eastern Washington are seeing the biggest effect.

The shipping containers are stacking up at the Port of Seattle and the Port of Tacoma.

Modesto Brito drove up to the Port of Tacoma on Monday with a container full of apples.

“Everybody was just parked and frustrated,” Brito said.

Three days later, the apples are still sitting at the port instead of on their way to Peru.

“We are spending a lot of time for just one load,” Brito said.

Truck drivers and shippers are losing hundreds of dollars a day as contract talks continue between the International Longshore Workers Union and Pacific Maritime Association.
“Think with your head and not just be angry,” Brito said.

Since last week, port workers refused to work but just a few hours a day, causing a big backup at both ports. It’s so bad at the terminals in Tacoma that they are no longer accepting exports.

Brito doesn`t get paid if the apples are not delivered on time. His bosses are also paying up to $400 a day for each refrigerated container that keeps the fruit cool.

So far the slowdown at the two ports is hurting Washington`s $7.2 billion apple industry the most. A record apple season is under way with 60,000 jobs on the line if the delay gets worse.

Brito says his family won’t survive if the backups continue for another week. For now, he is waiting it out, hoping for the best.

As of Thursday, union leaders and PMA said they didn’t know how long the dispute would last.

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3 comments

  • Kenneth Briggs

    so why does this wet back go back to get another load to go else where ? guess he had better learn some other trade or look for some other port out of state . after all it is his time and gas money he got to think about .

    • justin

      Do you really think that those Mexicans own those apples. No. What sucks is shit like this gives unions a bad name. I wish they would say what its for. Who’s ever at fault for the strike should have to pay for all the goods that were suppose to be exported. Not fair to the little guys. I’m sure the company breached the contract so the company should have to pay. But they won’t and big business wins again.

  • voice_of_reason

    This reporting is absolutely irresponsible. Longshore workers would like nothing better than to work- they have to provide for their families for the holidays, too. If you were to do your due diligence, you’d know that contract negotiations have halted because PMA wants to destroy thousands of local jobs in favor of automating them as fast as possible. ILWU wants to keep jobs and money in our community. PMA also wants longshoremen to start working 12 hour shifts- which, with the way they take jobs daily, means 14+ hour days. In addition to providing a terrible quality of life for thousands of families in our community, longshore workers operate very heavy machinery. It is not safe for them to operate these complex machines while fatigued.

    Longshoremen are battling to keep their way of life, and preserve the rich tradition of port work on which both Seattle and Tacoma were built. The most glaring and disgusting error in your report was that longshore workers are “refusing to work more than a few hours a day.” That is a bald-faced lie. PMA has been firing longshore workers after only a few hours. I repeat: the shortened work days are the fault of the employer, NOT of the union. In addition, they’re only hiring one gang at a time to work the ships, where they usually hire FOUR. The slowdowns are the result of greedy corporations attempting to take more and more away from the blue-collar workers who actually do the work, all the while smearing the union. It is reprehensible that this report passes for journalism. For shame.