Working to avoid another west coast port slowdown; Seattle Times editorial urges contract extension

Some positive news from earlier this August

Delegates from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) who are meeting in San Francisco this week for a caucus, voted Thursday to have the union enter into discussions with representatives of the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) to discuss a contract extension.

A majority of the more than 100 ILWU delegates from 30 West Coast ports from San Diego to Bellingham, Wash., who were elected by rank, along with file members, voted in favor of discussing an extension of the current five-year contract, which expires in on June 30, 2019.

The Seattle Times editorial board reminds us of why an extended contract is important

Stability from a longer contract would benefit workers, public ports, terminal operators, shippers and exporters.

It would help the Northwest Seaport Alliance and the 48,000 jobs supported by its marine-cargo operations in Seattle and Tacoma. A longer-term contact could also help the alliance secure an operator to run Seattle’s Terminal 5, which is being upgraded for larger ships.

We have reviewed the consequences of last year’s slowdown

It’s been more than a year since the West Coast port slowdown came to an end and as U.S. News reports, the effects are still being assessed. The linked article cites an economic impact assessment published by the Washington Council on International Trade. The report summary states,

Based on analytic modeling, the reduction in cargo handling productivity between October 2014 and March 2015 resulted in total near-term losses of $769.5 million to Washington businesses. This value represents the sum of net delinquent shipments and additional costs, specifically warehousing and truck idling fees.

Although trade policy has become a political football this year, global trade remains a critical component of our state economy. 

In our foundation report, we concluded,

Given its many trade advantages, the state is well-positioned to continue to be a leader in international trade for years to come.

So we agree with the Times editorial:

Locking in a strong contract that provides certainty for employers and consistent wage increases and benefits for workers would be a smart move benefiting all sides.

May it happen soon.