Port of Seattle remains shut down; Consumers could feel impact

Actions led by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) have shut down cargo operations at the Port of Seattle Saturday, according to the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA).

The shutdown is threatening supply chains and worrying retailers. That means the impact could soon be felt by consumers, too.

Work at the Port of Seattle came to a halt Saturday and it remained that way on Sunday.

The Pacific Maritime Association blames the work stoppage on the members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union in the midst of bitter contract negotiations.

If this work stoppage continues, everyday shoppers could feel the effects, just like they did during the pandemic. Most people remember the supply chain issues then.

There are plenty of containers at the Port of Seattle, but no one is working to move them.

Edie Rouleau has worked for 15 years at Fini, an accessories store in the Pike Place Market. She remembers the supply chain issues a couple of years ago that forced them to buy goods that didn’t need to come through the Port of Seattle.

“Some of the items that we ordered, some of the manufacturers, we never could get because they couldn’t ship them,” Rouleau said. “We could not get them.”

She says as it is, they are expecting shipments this week that are likely coming through the Port of Seattle.

“So, if they are close down, we won’t get them,” Rouleau said. “No, no. It will be delayed.”

The container ships aren’t coming in. KIRO 7 saw a vessel this Sunday afternoon but for a second straight day, those containers are sitting idle.

“Every negotiation, going back into the mid-90s, there has always been some level of disruption on the docks,” said Peter Tirschwell, S&P Global Market Intelligence.

This national expert in container shipping said the slowdown at the Port of Seattle is part of yearlong negotiations.

The longshore workers, he said, want a share of the huge profits ocean container companies made during the pandemic.

“Now the container carriers, on the other hand, yeah, they were earning a lot of profits during the pandemic,” said Tirschwell. “But they are no longer earning those profits because the freight rates have plunged, the volumes have plunged because people are not buying by the same number of, the same amount of consumer goods that they did during the pandemic.”

And he said they don’t want to pay the longshore workers the big pay raise they are demanding.

Right now both sides are at an impasse. If they don’t resolve the issue soon, that package you are waiting for could be delayed here at the port, until they do.

According to Reuters, more than 22,000 dockworkers along West Coast ports have been working without a contract since July 2022.

On Friday, U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Suzanne Clark urged President Biden to intervene in the negotiations, citing the “continued and potentially expanded service disruptions at these ports heading into peak shipping season.”

KIRO 7 has reached out to the ILWU for comment.

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