Container traffic remains backed up at the Port of Tacoma as labor stalemate continues

The pace of work at the Port of Tacoma continued below normal Wednesday as Longshore workers and their employers struggled to reach a contract agreement.

That same slowdown also infected other major West Coast ports including Seattle, Oakland, Los Angeles and Long Beach as Longshore workers apparently cut back on their productivity.

Port of Tacoma spokeswoman Tara Mattina said the work of loading and unloading container vessels at several port terminals was about 60 percent of normal Wednesday. Shipping lines and terminal operators represented by the Pacific Maritime Association blame that slowdown on a deliberate work action by the International Longshore Workers Union. The union says mismanagement and a shortage of container chassis is the cause.

The PMA and the ILWU have been talking since May in an attempt to reach a new long-term labor agreement. The existing agreement expired July 1. The two parties then informally agreed to continue working under the terms of the expired deal.

Longshore work slowed down Oct. 31 after negotiating sessions failed to hammer out a new agreement.

Manufacturers and retailers dependent on foreign goods have complained to President Barack Obama that the work action is depriving them of parts needed to build machinery and of goods to sell on their shelves during the holidays. Exporters have said the slowdown is killing their business in perishable commodities such as apples and Christmas trees that are rotting in their containers waiting for a boat ride to Asia.