A union-on-union fight over whose members should plug in refrigerated shipping containers in Portland has sent economic ripples to the Port of Lewiston, where some customers have ditched river barges for trucks rather than wait out the uncertainty.
Port of Lewiston manager David Doeringsfeld said Monday the labor dispute between longshoremen and electrical workers at the Port of Portland is affecting container traffic on the Snake River that would ordinarily be barged downstream to the Columbia River, then Portland. One international shipping company, Hanjin, won’t call on Portland until the dispute is resolved.
Some of Doeringsfeld’s customers, concerned whether container vessels will be loaded with their goods, have pulled their Hanjin container business from the river and instead trucked cargo to ports on Washington state’s Puget Sound. Even though shipping by truck is typically more expensive than by river barge, producers may conclude delivering their goods on time and according to contract is worth the extra money.
Former Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski has been brought in to help broker a settlement in the dispute between the unions, which are fighting over a policy that works out to the equivalent of two full-time jobs.
If there’s no deal by Tuesday, U.S District Judge Michael Simon said he may act on a request to force the longshoremen to at least temporarily halt their work slowdown, which has disrupted port operations for more than three weeks. (AP)