This past weekend, full operations resumed at all West Coast ports after the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association finally came to an agreement Friday, Feb. 20, on a five-year labor contract. U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez had imposed a deadline on both entities to come to an agreement by Friday. Had they failed to do so, a shutdown could have occurred, which would have cost the U.S. economy an estimated $2 billion a day.
The ports are now working to clear the biggest cargo backlog they’ve seen since 2004, which port officials and logistics experts believe will take months to recover from.
Thirteenth District Reps. Tom Dent, R-Moses Lake and Matt Manweller, R-Ellensburg, along with Sen. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake wrote a letter to President Obama last month asking him to intervene in order to bring the labor dispute to an end. Rep. Dent also sponsored the bipartisan House Joint Memorial 4005 to request assistance from the federal government to minimize the impacts of the West Coast ports slowdown. Thirty-four cosponsors signed on to the bill, including Manweller.
“I am pleased the West Coast ports slowdown has been resolved after a nine-month labor standoff that cost our state tens of millions of dollars,” said Dent. “I thank my fellow 13th District lawmakers for standing with me and working to put pressure on the White House to intervene in the dispute, as well as for helping to open dialogue with local labor leaders to encourage a resolution to this serious issue. I do, however, wish a deal would’ve come much sooner.”
Many businesses in Washington state were hit hard by the slowdown. National Public Radio recently reported apple producers have lost out on millions of dollars in sales, and “some of the region’s beef producers are running low on freezer space, meaning they could end up just giving the meat away.”
“We have a number of ag producers and manufacturers in the 13th District who are relieved the port dispute has reached a resolution,” said Manweller. “It is unfortunate the president and federal government waited so long to get involved. We could have saved millions of dollars in product losses, saved jobs, and lessened the impact on consumers had we acted earlier.”
The West Coast ports are responsible for 43.5 percent of U.S. trade, and experts say the dispute will cost retailers an estimated $7 billion this year due to lost sales and higher shipping costs.
“The effects on our state’s economy and our community are significant and I’m very pleased the parties have found a solution,” said Warnick. “I’m disappointed the federal government didn’t recognize the seriousness of the port slowdown sooner given that our state is so trade dependent. Although the state is limited in what it can do regarding the labor dispute, we need to focus our efforts now on rebuilding the areas of our economy negatively affected by the months-long dispute that hurt families, jobs and our state’s economy.”