Dock workers return to jobs

Longshoremen glad to be working but upset about federal intervention in contract dispute

Posted: Thursday, October 10, 2002

SEATTLE - Longshore workers were back on the job and working at a normal pace at Puget Sound's two major ports today after the court-ordered end of the West Coast port lockout.

"They're getting the work done," said Mick Schultz, spokesman for the Port of Seattle. "The productivity level is good. The pace of the work here is good. It's at or very close to normal."

Workers went back on the job Wednesday night, and today were unloading two ships each at Seattle's Terminal 46, Terminal 5 and Terminal 18, Schultz said.

Two cranes unloaded cargo on each ship at the terminals, Schultz said. Thirty-two workers are assigned to a crane, he said.

"Very often, we have more cranes going than that, but under current conditions that's the way it is right now," Schultz said.

Port of Tacoma spokesman Mike Wassem also said the work pace was normal at Tacoma terminals, but it could take three or four weeks to recover from the 10-day lockout that kept ships anchored in Commencement Bay and also idled rail cars from the Midwest.

"There is so much cargo here that it will take some logistical gymnastics to get it out of here," Wassem said.

In a report, Bear Stearns analyst Ed Wolfe estimated an equivalent of 680,000 truckloads of cargo was sitting on docks and ships along the West Coast.

In Seattle, crane operator Bob Campbell, a longshoreman for 34 years, described the mood of workers returning after the 10-day lockout late Wednesday as "semi- somber," glad to be back but unhappy about federal intervention in their contract dispute.

At the Port of Tacoma, Dick Marzano, vice president of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 23, said the 6 p.m. Wednesday shift start was "as smooth as possible but when you try to fix a backlog of the amount of work that was left it's not going to happen overnight."

The West Coast port lockout ordered by the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents shipping companies and terminal operators, affected 10,500 ILWU members at 29 ports, costing the nation's fragile economy up to $2 billion a day by holding up exports and imports.

President Bush intervened Tuesday, obtaining an injunction to end the shutdown.

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