Declaration of Michael Pellegrini
On the
Effects of the Longshore Lockout
I am a B registered longshoreman at the Port of Tacoma.  I have worked in the industry since 1996.  I normally drive straddle carrier (strad).  Last week I worked 48 hours.
The way the normal work cycle usually goes in Tacoma, in the early part of the week it’s typically pretty slow.  Then, on Thursday through Saturday morning, it gets very busy.  If for example, there are 50-100 jobs per day early in the week, on Thursday through Saturday, there might be 150-200 jobs per shift.
This surge of work has always created problems with staffing, but generally we’ve dealt with it – although often just barely.
In current crisis following the end of the lockout on October 9, 2002, we haven’t fared so well.
When we returned to work, every terminal called for maximum manning on every shift.
We’re just not able to meet demands like that when the demand extends more than a couple days.  Basically, we have almost the exact precise number of skilled workers to handle the normal workflow.  This is an acceptable business practice.  It would be unusual for an employer to train more skilled workers than they need.
With the congestion caused by the lockout, essentially, it’s been the equivalent of a Friday night every night and day since we returned to work – and because of that, the system is breaking down.  We’ve seen very acute shortages of specialty skilled workers, such as crane drivers, strad drivers, top pick and side pick operators and so on, as well as supervisors and foremen.
People simply cannot work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – although many have been trying.  At this point, many people have been working extended overtime shifts.  A significant number have actually worked 10-12 shifts in just the last week.
At the Evergreen Terminal (Pier 4) where I normally work driving strad, the situation is perhaps worse than the other facilities.
Prior to the lockout, Evergreen had increased our workload to where the container yard was close to the maximum storage capacity.  There was an enormous quantity of empty containers on the ground, block-stowed.  In the years I have worked at Evergreen, I’ve never seen that many block-stows before.
Prior to the lockout, we were so desperate for space that Evergreen had the port paint lines for new rows in areas that had previously been roads and aisle-ways.  Plus, several areas that had been roads were also turned into block-stows – for instance around the strad staging area at the in-gate, and in back of the gatehouse main empty container block-stow.
Following our return to work, we’ve had to be quite creative in finding space.  More block-stows have been created, mostly for import loads that we were unable to find chassis for – something we’ve never done before.  The general shortage of chassis is itself, a serious problem.  Plus often times, containers are now dumped into “slop” rows, mixing several destinations and sail dates, simply because the space doesn’t exist to sort them into discreet rows.  This means that these containers may have to be re-handled several more times before they can be sent to their final destination – which significantly slows things down.
Another result of mixing the containers in rows is that while loading the ship, we now often have to move a large number of containers to find the one we want – all while the cranes at the ship stand-by.  This as well, has significantly slowed down the loading process.
When I worked for the ship on October 16, we probably spent an hour or more of down-time while we tried to locate containers buried somewhere deep in a row.  On one occasion that day, I had to move four containers to get the one I wanted – which took me probably 20 minutes.  Another time, we had to stop everything and move a bunch containers (15-20 containers) out of a row, because the train strads were discharging to that row and our supervisor was afraid they would bury our containers – this took probably 30 minutes for the three of us.
Since returning to work, this sort of situation has become the norm.
On October 17, I drove strad in the yard at the Pier 4 Gate.  Most of my day was spent digging-out containers that had been “rolled” – bumped to a later shipping date.  Most of these containers were buried deep in the rows, and I frequently had to shift 4-6 other containers to get to the one which had been rolled.  This is completely non-productive work that’s a direct result of the congestion caused by the lockout.  And all these containers will have to be re-handled again several more times.
At present, every inch of space in the Evergreen yard is allocated and in use.  Before any new ships can discharge cargo, the present import containers must be loaded onto trains or trucks. 
Finally recognizing the gravity of the space problems, on Friday, October 18, Evergreen shifted strad manpower from the ship to the gate to help move containers out of the yard.
In the week following, all of the same problems as mentioned above continued to occur but were generally magnified as the Evergreen yard continued to absorb even more containers.   And as the crunch for space has gotten worse, we’ve converted more former work areas to container storage (for example, the container repair area, which now holds live reefers).
The problem with refrigerated containers has been particularly acute for the past week, and for the first time ever, we have had to resort to block-stowing live reefers simply because there was no space left to put them in strad configuration. 
On Friday, October 25, I spent probably two hours shuffling live reefers from one place to another in an attempt to make space for new arrivals.
Again, all of these containers will have to be re-handled perhaps several times before they leave on a ship.
At one point, on October 28, we were forced to leave live reefers containing apples unplugged in a block-stow area all morning because there was no place to plug them in.  Later in the day, after the ship had loaded reefers and freed up some spots, we again moved the reefers to proper rows.
This is all completely non-productive work caused by the lock-out.
Subject to manpower shortages, both the Pier 4 Gate and the North Intermodal Train operation have been working heroically to move the cargo in and out of the terminal.  But staffing is finite.
There is only so much we can do.  We are working as fast as we can.  But we have an infrastructure built to move perhaps 6,000 containers a week, and now we’re trying to move 12,000.  
That just doesn’t work.
I declare under the penalty of perjury and the laws of the State of Washington that the foregoing is true and correct to the best of my knowledge.
Signed, at Tacoma, Washington, this 28th day of October 2002.
Michael Pellegrini