• Port slowdown leading to layoffs

    By: Graham Johnson

    Updated:

     As the port slowdown continues, some companies in the import/export business are having to lay off workers.

    "We've laid off about 30 percent of our people and it could get worse if this thing drags on," said Steve Stivala of MacMillan-Piper.

    Goods arrive at his Seattle warehouse by truck and train for transfer into shipping containers to go overseas.

    But with ships anchored in Elliott Bay waiting to get into port and shipments stuck in hundreds of railcars, the business is nearly at a standstill.

    "It's been terrible, it's been catastrophic for our business, quite frankly," Stivala said. "We're in the fourth week now and we can't get containers to and from the piers because of the slowdown."         

    The International Longshore and Warehouse Union is in a contract dispute with terminal operators and shipping companies and has been slowing down work at West Coast ports since Halloween.

    A Port of Tacoma spokeswoman said ships that are usually in and out in a couple of days are now in port a week or longer.

    The Ports of Seattle and Tacoma have asked President Obama to send a federal mediator to resolve the contract dispute and get shipments back to full speed.

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