Tester says West Coast ports dispute impacts Montana businesses

Senator urges Pacific Maritime Association, dock workers to resolve differences

(U.S. Senate) – As negotiations between West Coast port terminals and dock workers drag into their seventh month, Senator Jon Tester is reminding both sides that the resulting shipping delays hurt Montana businesses’ ability to compete in the global marketplace.

Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) recently sought a federal mediator to resolve outstanding differences in a dispute over a long-term contract that began last summer.

In the meantime, the dispute is causing shipping delays that increase costs for Montana producers trying to get their products to market.

After hearing from Columbia Grain and the Montana Grain Growers, as well as Sun Mountain Sports in Missoula, Senator Tester sent a letter to the parties asking for a quick resolution. The Senator noted that many manufacturers in Montana that rely on products from Asia are seeing increased shipping costs and delays.

“Our farmers and ranchers produce world-class products that are sold throughout the world, including in many Asian markets,” said Tester in a letter to PMA and ILWU. “The costs of shipping delays are often passed directly onto the producers, which hurts their ability to compete in a global marketplace and to maintain successful businesses.”

“While we can appreciate the benefits of the collective bargaining process, we believe the current situation at our west coast ports is benefiting no one,” said Blake Ludwig with Sun Mountain Sports. “Instead of having a reasonable flow of goods the situation has deteriorated to point where the ILWU and the Pacific Maritime Association are, through their inaction, delaying the delivery of goods, significantly increasing cost of transport and essentially holding a large portion of the United States economy hostage. It is our opinion that this should not be tolerated, businesses have too large of an investment of time, effort and financing in their supply chains to simply have them disrupted at will, due to disagreement between two parties who are actually beneficiaries of the businesses’ commercial activities. Please get the Ports working again and settle your issues in a responsible manner at the negotiating table.”

Tester’s letter to ILWU President Robert McEllrath and PMA President James McKenna is available online HERE.