The Agriculture Transportation Coalition notes as the West Coast ports melt down, terminals closing, ships skipping port calls or re-routing, chassis unavailable, truckers limited by endless lines at gates and unreasonable Hours of Service restrictions, we see this is having very real, very immediate injury to the US economy and US agriculture, our most important export. Here from a potato farmer in the Pacific Northwest, we hope that West Coast labor and management read this, understand the injury they are imposing on the US economy; we hope that the President pays attention and takes action, for the long term threat to US standing in the world is every bit as great as those forces we are fighting overseas.
“I am not sure if you have heard about the port issues we as potato growers are facing here in the Pacific Northwest. But there is supposedly a new round of labor negotiations coming up for the dock workers at the ports. Labor has been “slow working” this week, setting the stage for tough wage and benefit negotiations at the port.
They have chosen Peak Export refrigerated cargo as the season to start putting fear into the shipping lines, terminals, exporters, and truckers. Tacoma labor has essentially been working very slow at the docks this week and yesterday the terminals sent them home because they were not productive at all. Today in talking with the shipping lines, they are anticipating a “Labor Lock Out” at the port during peak refrigerated cargo shipping season from Tacoma and in effect Seattle will follow and probably Portland.
As it stands right now, I have potatoes I am shipping to many countries (nearly 50 containers just this week alone). So far I have shipped about 6 containers and may not have any more than 3 to 5 more containers shipped this week. If this continues or if there is a labor lock out, my buyers would be forced to buy from another country because they would need stable supply. I grew our potatoes on contract for them, so when I miss these sales, I do not get them back. So every day and every week is to us - very detrimental that we get labor working and the ports servicing the national best interest which is to help agricultural goods continue to expand and be exported from a quality growing area like Washington.
If there is any political pressure at all that can be put on the ports and labor to resume talks and quickly settle any labor disputes so we can have some shipping stability, that would be hugely beneficial and welcome from exporters and shippers throughout the West Coast. We hope for any help on this to prevent a lock out and to get our ports working for us instead of holding our peak season cargo hostage to help settle their labor disputes.”
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