Letter: Nation’s ports, warehouses overloaded

Editor,

Whidbey residents are wondering why ships are backlogged in the Puget Sound.

As a South Whidbey High School alum and veteran longshore worker, I would like to keep them informed.

The whole West Coast is experiencing the highest-ever number of imports of all kinds of cargo.

My fellow International Longshore and Warehouse Union workers and I are working hard every day, as quickly as possible with the equipment available to us to load and unload the record number of ships arriving.

The problem is, the nation’s ports, warehouses, railroads and distribution centers are all overloaded right now, and problems with rail cars in the Midwest unfortunately become problems with ports on both coasts.

Rest assured that everyone in the supply chain is trying to find solutions and clear the backlog as soon as possible, and making progress.

Early last week, a retired Coast Guard official released a public letter that caused confusion on social media about the causes of congestion, both currently and in the past.

I want to assure your newspaper’s readers that ILWU members are committed, and always have been, to the Puget Sound communities in which we grew up, work and live. We didn’t cause the congestion in 2014-15; in fact, we have not been on strike during negotiations since 1971.

Many falsehoods are spread by the employer during negotiations, and it’s important to know we look out for our communities.

My longshore brothers and sisters in the 29 ports from Bellingham to San Diego have worked every day through the pandemic to handle the cargo needed to fight the pandemic, keep shelves stocked and keep our economy going.

We are proud of our work to keep good jobs here in our port communities, so that people who live in our area receive some of the benefits of the shipping industry we make profitable.

Rich Austin, Jr.

President, ILWU Local 19, Seattle

South Whidbey High School Class of 1985

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