Portland Longshore Union Dispute
by Richard Read
Four hundred miles from the Pacific Ocean, Dean Brocke depends on a river system of barges and locks for shipping peas, beans and lentils to customers abroad.
But lately Brocke, who markets goods for about 200 farmers near Lewiston, Idaho, has felt as landlocked as the state was when his grandfather began the business in 1950, long before the cargo connection to the ocean.
Brocke and thousands of other exporters across the Northwest and Midwest face an expensive choke point: the Port of Portland's Terminal 6, which is hobbled by a union dispute over two jobs that has interrupted shipping from points as far as India and Iowa. The disruption that one steamship line calls a fiasco has scared away container vessels and hurt the Port's reputation.
The amount of economic damage from the month-and-a-half deadlock between longshoremen and electricians defies estimation because of the myriad companies using the Port and the domino effect from each affected business.
But the standoff could jeopardize almost 1,000 jobs, with annual earnings exceeding $50 million, directly supported by container shipping, according to the Port of Portland.
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