May Day protest holds up cargo from West Coast
Matson is routing its Hawaii cargo around the brief stoppage
LOS ANGELES » West Coast cargo traffic came to a halt as port workers ditched the day shift, saying they wanted to commemorate May Day and call on the U.S. to end the war in Iraq.
Worker stayed off the job for about 10 hours before returning for evening shifts.
Thousands of dockworkers at 29 ports in California, Oregon and Washington were no-shows for the morning shift, leaving ships and trucks idle at ports from Long Beach to Seattle, said Pacific Maritime Association spokesman Steve Getzug.
The work stoppage came during ongoing contract talks between the union and shippers that began in March. The current six-year contract expires on July 1.
The union insisted the walkout was not related to the negotiations and defended its members' right to take the day off.
The job action did not carry over to Hawaii shores, and Matson Navigation customers should feel no impact from the work stoppage, said Jeff Hull, Matson public relations manager.
"The Mahimahi, which would normally depart Oakland at 1, departed early this morning. We received a lot of freight in advance for that vessel," he said. "What we didn't receive, we are trucking over the road to meet (the Mahimahi) in L.A."
Matson had to make arrangements for the trucking at additional expense as well as arranging to receive cargo in advance of the work stoppage, but for customers anticipating a shipment, "there will be virtually no impact," Hull said.
Horizon Lines, the second-largest Hawaii-mainland shipper, deferred comment to the Pacific Maritime Association. Its Web site indicated no West Coast port calls yesterday.
The West Coast ports are the nation's principal gateway for cargo container traffic from the Far East. In a typical day shift, about 10,000 cargo containers are loaded and unloaded from ships coastwide, Getzug said.
The Associated Press and Star-Bulletin reporter Erika Engle contributed to this report.