Mixer: Car-go is now Car-slow

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friday mixer bannerVery little is moving at the Ports of LA and Long Beach, part of an enormous system of ports all up and down the west coast of the United States.

An ongoing dispute between longshoremen and shipping companies at those ports has led to a extreme slowdown and ultimate suspension of unloading cargo ships.

There are as many as 27 ships waiting at anchor outside the two ports, with just as many at berth, according to port officials.

These West Coast ports are responsible for about one-quarter of the country’s international trade.

Talk about the ripple effects. Agricultural exports through West Coast ports have fallen as much as 50 percent because of the slowdowns, and the meat and poultry industry estimates it is losing $40 million a week.

During weekends and holidays, huge boats are sitting just offshore, waiting to unload containers filled with products from Asia. And goods from California – that are supposed to be shipped out – are languishing on the docks. Fruits are rotting. Growers and manufacturers are finding other ways to ship their produce and products.

The Pacific Maritime Association has accused The International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents about 20,000 workers at 29 ports along the West Coast, of deliberate slowdowns that are crippling the ports. Something the union denies.

The White House is watching the stalemate closely, but has yet to get involved. Meanwhile, in Congress, more than a dozen Republicans and Democrats have introduced a resolution urging both sides to reach an agreement.

Kirk Siegler has been covering the issue for NPR. And Karen Robes Meeks covers trade and transportation for the Long Beach Press Telegram. Both joined us for the Mixer.