Labor dispute at 2 major ports jeopardizing state's apple industry

TACOMA -- Labor disputes at two major ports in Puget Sound is clogging commerce.

Fruit growers and shippers in Eastern Washington are seeing the biggest effect.

The shipping containers are stacking up at the Port of Seattle and the Port of Tacoma.

Modesto Brito drove up to the Port of Tacoma on Monday with a container full of apples.

“Everybody was just parked and frustrated,” Brito said.

Three days later, the apples are still sitting at the port instead of on their way to Peru.

“We are spending a lot of time for just one load,” Brito said.

Truck drivers and shippers are losing hundreds of dollars a day as contract talks continue between the International Longshore Workers Union and Pacific Maritime Association.
“Think with your head and not just be angry,” Brito said.

Since last week, port workers refused to work but just a few hours a day, causing a big backup at both ports. It’s so bad at the terminals in Tacoma that they are no longer accepting exports.

Brito doesn`t get paid if the apples are not delivered on time. His bosses are also paying up to $400 a day for each refrigerated container that keeps the fruit cool.

So far the slowdown at the two ports is hurting Washington`s $7.2 billion apple industry the most. A record apple season is under way with 60,000 jobs on the line if the delay gets worse.

Brito says his family won’t survive if the backups continue for another week. For now, he is waiting it out, hoping for the best.

As of Thursday, union leaders and PMA said they didn’t know how long the dispute would last.