West Coast Port Situation Escalates Exacerbating Challenges for Meat IndustryWednesday, February 18, 2015
(North American Meat Institute)
The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) suspended the unloading of container and other cargo ships last Thursday, this past weekend and on Monday, citing the International Longshore and Warehouse Union's (ILWU) perpetuation of a "strike without pay." The PMA must pay employees time and a half for work on holidays and weekends. Under the union contract, Thursday (observed as Abraham Lincoln's birthday) and Monday (President's Day) are considered holidays. Although the PMA suspended the unloading of ships on these days, they allowed terminals to continue to move containers from their yards onto trucks and trains.
The ongoing crisis at West Coast ports is costing the meat and poultry industry more than $40 million per week in lost sales and unexpected export charges, and is leading many companies to search for additional space to store frozen meat and poultry export products to prevent spoilage. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack referred to the situation as "very serious" in testimony before the House Committee on Agriculture. Livestock producers could face declining prices if export product fails to reach Asian markets. Meanwhile, President Obama is sending U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez to meet with leaders of the PMA and ILWU to try to broker a deal.