Federal judge orders West Coast ports reopened

The Port of Tacoma and 28 other West Coast ports could soon be back in business, the result of a federal judge ordering them reopened – the latest development in a labor dispute between dockworkers and shipping companies where longshoremen have been locked out of their jobs since the end of September.

The decision by San Francisco Federal Court Judge William Alsup on Tuesday capped a day of maneuvering between the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA).

Earlier Tuesday, just before President Bush’s decision to seek a court order invoking the Taft-Hartley Act to end the lockout, the ILWU agreed to return to work today under a 30-day contract extension.

However, the PMA rejected the deal, forcing the Bush administration to seek the court’s help.

Under the Taft-Hartley Act, Bush can order the Attorney General to seek an injunction in federal court for an 80-day cooling-off period that would reopen the ports.

“This dispute between management and labor cannot be allowed to further harm the economy and force thousands of working Americans from their jobs,” Bush said in announcing the federal government’s involvement.

By the estimates of some economists, the lockout is costing the U.S. economy between $1 billion and $2 billion a day.

“We’re waiting for the word,” Gary Brown, ILWU Local 23, said Tuesday night of the possibility of the Port of Tacoma reopening.

Brown said he was expecting a phone call regarding the status of the Port of Tacoma at any time.

“We really hope it does,” said Port of Tacoma Communications Manager Mike Wasem, regarding the reopening of the Port of Tacoma.

The Port of Tacoma is not a member of the PMA and is not involved in negotiations.

Wasem said six ships were berthed at the Port of Tacoma, with five anchored in Commencement Bay and one anchored in Quartermaster Harbor.

The integration of technology, which could result in the loss of jobs, and union jurisdiction, are the main issues of contention between the two sides.