The ongoing contract dispute between dockworkers and port officials on the West Coast took another turn for the worse Wednesday with the announcement that ports would be shut down for the next five days, including the holiday weekend.
The Pacific Maritime Association, which operates 29 ports on the West Coast, said loading and unloading at those ports would be suspended Thursday, along with both days during the weekend and Presidents Day on Monday.
Friday is a normal workday and employers plan to hire full crews.
The PMA has accused 20,000 members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union of deliberately slowing down work at its ports amid months of stalled talks over a new collective bargaining agreement. The group said the weekend shutdown would prevent paying higher wages to workers during those days.
"What they're doing amounts to a strike with pay, and we will reduce the extent to which we pay premium rates for such a strike," said PMA spokesman Wade Gates.
The dockworkers' union, in contrast, has blamed port operator moves for exacerbating existing capacity and equipment problems at those ports, some of which are among the busiest in the country.
Union officials alleged the latest shutdown was "an effort by the employers to put economic pressure on our members and to gain leverage in contract talks."
The PMA also shut down loading and unloading last weekend, while warning that a complete shutdown was only days away.