TACOMA — A slowdown at the Port of Tacoma continues to add to the backlog of cargo ships and containers in an ongoing labor dispute that is creating gridlock at ports up and down the West Coast.
“All they hear is these dirty longshoremen are ruining the shipping just cause they don’t have a contract, and it’s not true,” said union leader Dean McGrath.
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union is locked in contract negotiations with the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents shipping lines and terminal operators.
On Thursday night, union members rallied at Tollefson Plaza in Tacoma. Many of them work the overnight shift at the Port of Tacoma.
“We are ready to move cargo and we are here to keep Washington moving," said port worker Meghan Mason.
In December, Mason said her employers cut the overnight shifts unloading ships at the port.
“We have two shifts that we lost, 13 hours a day that aren’t being worked, because the employer is not hiring them,” said Mason.
The Pacific Maritime Association accused the union of intentionally slowing down work at West Coast ports. In response to the slowdown, PMA reduced night-shift hours to focus on clearing containers from terminal yards and moving them to their final destinations.
In a statement, PMA said: “Nearly three months ago, the ILWU began a coordinated series of slowdowns intended to pressure employers to make concessions at the bargaining table. Ever since, PMA and its members have worked hard to counter the growing backlog of cargo that threatens to bring our ports to gridlock.”
At the rally, ILWU members blamed PMA for the slowdown.
Both sides have been working on a new contract for more than eight months.