The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) gave our state a lot of grief when the union led a six-month long labor dispute against Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), the group representing port companies during 2014-15. But, just how much pain did ILWU dish out to Washingtonians?
Well, according to a recent report, $769.5 million worth.
Due to port slowdowns along the West Coast (including Tacoma and Seattle), our state lost a whopping $769.5 million in economic activity. As SHIFT reported, the ILWU and PMA struggled to reach an agreement for a new labor contract. A significant factor preventing a successful negotiation was the increase of healthcare costs associated with Obamacare. The ILWU fought to “keep its current health care benefits despite the estimated annual $190 million increase to their plans under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that neither side in the negotiations wants to absorb.”
PMA accused ILWU of deliberately slowing down work and causing port traffic. Though the ILWU denied the accusations, the facts spoke for themselves. In November 2014, reports indicated that port workers in Seattle and Tacoma refused to work more than a few hours a day. A study released by the Washington Council on International Trade verified pervious reports. Via the Puget Sound Business Journal,
“Between November 2014 and the following March, productivity dropped roughly in half, from the usual 25 to 35 containers per hour to between 10 and 18 an hour, according to the study.”
The port slowdowns proved to be particularly damaging to agricultural sector. The Puget Sound Business Journal,
“For instance apple growers lost $95 million from exports that were not shipped, while the Washington State Potato Commission reported losses of $23 million a month.
“In total, $555.8 million in exports were not moved via ship during the slowdown.”
The slowdowns promise to have a lasting negative impact on West Coast ports. That’s because East Coast ports helped pick up the slack, which shifts the balance of competitiveness.
ILWU and PMA finalized a new contract in May 2015. The contract now expires in 2019 when we expect the showdown to occur all over again.
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