How The West Coast Port Dispute Is Impacting One Treasure Valley Business

Feb 19, 2015

The continuing labor dispute between a West Coast dock workers union and the Pacific Maritime Association is causing headaches for Idaho businesses. Twenty-nine ports in California, Oregon and Washington have been impacted by shutdowns.

One of the Treasure Valley businesses dealing with the effects is the Meridian RC Willey, a Utah based home furnishing store. Jon Jensen manages of the Meridian store, and he's been following the labor dispute news closely. He says in today's global economy, something as sweeping as an entire coastal port shutdown is bound to cause some problems across industries.

"If there's a sofa that's being built in North Carolina or Mississippi," Jensen says, "some of the parts and pieces are coming through the West Coast ports because that's where most of the Asia shipping comes from."

The boats waiting to be docked in places like Seattle and Long Beach are carrying fabric, hardware and electric parts needed to assemble the stuff sold at the Meridian store. But Jensen says his company planned ahead of the labor dispute and stockpiled items in their Salt Lake City warehouse, which has helped keep customers happy. Jensen has seen the biggest slowdown in supply when it comes to special orders. 

"If someone special orders something we don't currently have in stock it might take six weeks normally," he says. "It's taking at least eight -- and maybe longer."

Still, the RC Willey manager says the slowdown hasn't affected his bottom line -- but it has meant he's had to ask some customers to be extra patient.

"We want to keep in contact with our customers and we have been, trying to let them know the situation and so forth. And some customers are upset, of course; they would like to have their stuff and we would like to give them their stuff."

But overall, Jensen says things could be worse for his store and their inventory.

"At least I don't have perishable goods, I guess I have to count my blessings for that," laughs Jensen. 

Correction:  This post originally described the west coast labor situation at the port as a "strike", which reflects a work stoppage.  The longshoremen are not on strike.  We've changed the language in the post for accuracy.

Find Frankie Barnhill on Twitter @FABarnhill

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