Port labor slowdown hits hard locally

By Davis Wahlman November 18, 2014, KPER TV

Contract negotiations at the Port of Seattle have forced a labor slowdown and we’re feeling the effects here at home.


Semi trucks filled with products from Eastern Washington sit idle on the west side as ships aren’t being off loaded.


Thousands of pounds of potatoes pour into a local processing plant.

General Manager Derek Davenport runs the numbers. Bags of potatoes stack up and trucks get filled, but they can’t ship them off.


“It’s been slow. The Port’s made it hard for us,” he says.


The labor slowdown on the West side has left hundreds of trucks stranded at the Port of Seattle and losses piling up.


Companies like Allied Potato Northwest just outside of Pasco have been shipping containers full of potatoes, or at least trying to, they shipped out 60, but only got five on a boat overseas.


At $12 thousand a pop, the losses are adding up to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.


Local trucking companies are feeling the squeeze as well. A local trucker who didn’t want to give his last name has been out of a job for going on three weeks. He had to leave his semi full of hay from Hermiston parked at a truck stop on the West Side. His company is losing more than $3 thousand a day.


“I wake up in the morning saying, ‘Is today going to be the day I get that phone call saying, It’s over, let’s go back to work?'”


Washington’s Apple industry is losing more than 19 million dollars a week as a result of the slow down. Derek just hopes it will end sooner rather than later.


“We hope to get this settled fast, that way we can get back to work and back to shipping potatoes, I mean, we’re not here to practice farming. This is a business and we’re trying to move these potatoes,” he says.


As long as negotiations continue, an end date for the slowdown might be weeks away.


The slowdown could also mean a delay on Christmas gifts.

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