Two major U.S. West Coast ports – the Port of Seattle and the Port of Tacoma – were closed yesterday in the wake of a contentious labor dispute involving the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), according to various news reports.
In a statement issued on September 8, 2011, the Port of Seattle said: “The Port of Seattle is aware that work is not occurring at our terminals today, as longshore workers are not present. Port of Seattle terminals are leased to terminal operators who work directly with ILWU for staffing. We do not know when work will resume.” At this writing, the port is still closed.
The Port of Tacoma was also closed yesterday, and in a statement the port reported, “ILWU Local 23 is not working at the Port of Tacoma this morning [Sep. 8]. Trucks are not delivering or picking up cargo at port marine terminals. No ships at the port are being impacted by this situation for now.” However, as of 7 am PDT, longshore crews were reporting to work and marine terminals at the Port of Tacoma were open.
According to the Wall Street Journal, hundreds of ILWU members walked out of their jobs at the Seattle and Tacoma ports and stormed a newly built grain terminal early Thursday morning at the Port of Longview. Longview police told the WSJ that the union members “spilled grain from rail cars that entered the terminal late Wednesday, cut the brakes on some rail vehicles and tossed a security company’s SUV into a ditch.”
An AP report published in the Seattle Post Intelligencer explains that the dispute stems from the decision of EGT to hire workers from the Operating Engineers union at its new grain terminal at the Port of Longview. The ILWU is claiming that it has the right to work at the terminal. Although U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton had issued an injunction against ILWU activity at the Port of Longview, that injunction was apparently ignored.
EGT LLC is a joint venture between Bunge North America, ITOCHU and STX Pan Ocean. The company operates a export grain terminal at the Port of Longview, as well as facilities designed to supply the export terminal.