A federal mediator is now involved in the West Coast port labor dispute that has slowed down shipments of agricultural products.
The Pacific Maritime Association represents shipping companies. It says West Coast ports are facing “complete gridlock’ with few ships going in and out. The PMA Accuses Union Members of Intentionally slowing down work. But the union says shippers have cut night shifts to workers.
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Since the mediator joined the talks last week, no further agreements have been reached over the long-expired contract.
Stan Boshart, owner of BOSSCO Trading, knows straw hasn’t always been easy to market.
“It’s a very small, very specialized product,” said BOSSCO Trading owner Stan Boshart.
Over the last 10 years, Boshart has exported straw through Portland, Seattle and Tacoma. Now he sells to Korea and Japan as well as small amounts to Vietnam and Taiwan. He loads and takes back trucks to the port 40 to 60 times a week.
“It takes a lot of effort and work on our part (to export) to the Japanese and Korean market who need cattle feed,” said Boshart.
Yet lately, that effort and work to get that specialized product to the ports isn’t paying off. Members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union have worked without a contract, slowing down trucks at the ports.
“The Longshoremen’s decision to work really slow has affected the livelihoods of myself and many hard-working Americans. They are able to hold my product at ransom,” said Boshart.
Boshart has dealt with this at the Portland port for years because of labor issues, but he’s really felt a slow-down since November.
“They will unload me or maybe they won’t unload me. Sometimes we need to pick up port containers in Portland and take it to Tacoma as fast as we can to find out the ship never landed in Tacoma as well,” said Boshart.
As a result, his employees are sitting at the ports, working as much as 65 hours a week.
“So I’m paying them overtime. I’m buying more trucks and I’m buying more equipment and the Longshoremen are getting paid more,” said Boshart.
Every new day is burning a hole in Boshart’s pocket. He says his company is losing $1,500 a day.
“That is how much I lose by having three people dedicated to changing booking numbers, figuring out which vessel landed, which passed and which did not get loaded,” said Boshart.
To help fix these types of situations, he White House has sent a mediator. But according to the Agriculture Transportation Coalition, a mediator cannot impose a resolution.
Boshart says his customers haven’t felt the halts yet.
“To Japan and Korea, they haven’t realized it yet because we go to all lengths to deliver product to make sure their cows don’t go hungry,” said Boshart.
But regardless of the product, Boshart says America’s West Coast has come to a stop.
One of six ports in Tacoma, Washington closed its gates Tuesday until further notice. It will not accept loads of goods to be exported. One source told AgDay this is often done to allow time to clear imports.