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Port of Seattle shuts down on Saturday as ILWU and PMA war of words ramps up

Photo: Wikipedia Creative Commons Port_of_Seattle_from_Columbia_Center,_2022.jpg
The Port of Seattle was shut down on Saturday as US West Coast port labour disruption continues.

The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), which represents terminal operators and carriers, in the labour negotiations said on 10 June that coordinated and disruptive work actions led by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) had shut down cargo operations at the Port of Seattle.

The PMA said that work slowdowns directed by the ILWU for the second and third shifts on 9 June had brought cargo operations to a halt at the Port of Seattle leading to workers being sent home.

On Saturday 10 June it said the ILWU refused to dispatch workers to any of the port’s container terminals for the first shift leading to the continued closure of the port.

The ILWU meanwhile denied its actions were leading to the closure of ports and was committed to negotiating a “fair and equitable” agreement.

“Despite what you are hearing from PMA, West Coast ports are open as we continue to work under our expired collective bargaining agreement,” stated ILWU International President Willie Adams.

The previous contract between longshoremen and the ports expired on 1 July 2022, and negotiations on a potential new deal have dragged on since 10 May 2022 with few signs of progress. The war of words between the two sides has ramped up recently backed by a growing number of small scale actions such as work slowdowns at individual US West Coast ports.

There are fears of a repeat of 2002 when the contract between the ILWU and PMA expired on 30 June that year. The ILWU agreed for its members to continue working as negotiations continued implementing work slowdowns at US West Coast ports. As negotiations floundered on 27 September the PMA stage a lockout of workers shutting down all US West Coast ports led to supply chain chaos.

After 11 days the administration of then President Bush sought legal intervention through the Taft-Hartley Act to end the lockout and ports reopened on 9 October 2002.

The backlog took weeks to clear and it was estimated the lockout cost the US economy some $10 billion.