High stakes in West Coast ports contract dispute

In the Seattle Times, AWB president Kris Johnson and Jon DeVaney, president of the Washington State Tree Fruits Association, underscore the urgency in resolving the contract dispute between West Coast dockworkers unions and the Pacific Maritime Association.

Given our dependence on ports for nearly all industries — imports and exports — the slowdown could ultimately impact already-stressed state and local budgets.

The timing is devastating for agriculturists and retailers. Toys are on our docks that need to be under a tree this holiday season. Thousands of Christmas trees bound for Hong Kong are sitting idle. Producers of perishable commodities, from hay to the state’s iconic apples, are suffering severe economic harm.

Washington’s economy depends heavily on trade, one reason transportation infrastructure is vital to our prosperity. The contract dispute highlights the cascading consequences of a shutdown. Johnson and DeVaney provide many examples (I recommend reading the op-ed) and close with the right message:

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association need to set aside their differences and reach an agreement that would ensure the continued success and competitiveness of these ports. But it is imperative that an agreement be reached without any shutdowns or further disruptions.

The Puget Sound Business Journal reports that the union says it does not plan to shut down the ports, but that uncertainty lingers. Until the slowdown, the Port of Tacoma was having a good year, up 11 percent.

A swift resolution to the dispute is in everyone’s best interest.