Friday, January 23, 2015

Longshore Workers Walk Off Job in Seattle

By Mark Edward Nero

A work dispute led to longshore workers walking off the job at a Port of Seattle terminal on Jan. 20, bringing it to a standstill, until returning a day later.

According to terminal operator SSA Marine, longshore workers at Terminal 18, one of the largest container facilities in the Pacific Northwest, walked off the job the morning of Jan. 20 after demanding that more labor be hired at Terminal 5.

SSA Marine Sr. Vice President Bob Watters told local media outlets that the workers’ request was outside the company’s jurisdiction, since the terminal is owned by the port and not operated by SSA Marine.

Terminal 5 has been shuttered since mid-2014 for renovations so that it may accommodate larger ships. As part of the plan, Eagle Marine Services, which operates Terminal 5, has temporarily relocated its cargo and breakbulk activities to Terminal 18. The port has said however, that it is looking to attract “interim uses” for the industrial facility.

Watters said that the reason Terminal 18 was closed for nearly a full day on Jan. 20 was that SSA Marine, when told that longshore workers would walk off the job for half a day, told the employees that if they left during the morning shift, they shouldn’t come back in the afternoon.

“Workers said to us ‘if you don’t hire more people for Terminal 5 we’ll walk off and might be back at noon,” he explained. “We said, ‘if you’re going to walk off, don’t bother coming back until tomorrow’.”

ILWU Local 19 has not responded to requests to comment on the walkout.