Operations Return To Normal At West Coast Ports

Published December 13, 2011 10:36PM (EST)

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — West Coast ports tried to get back to business as usual Tuesday as they tallied their losses after anti-Wall Street protests that blocked trucks and curbed business along busy waterfronts.

Long lines of trucks waited outside port gates and some workers reported early to clear the cargo backlog left after thousands of Occupy demonstrators forced shipping terminals in Oakland, Calif., Portland, Ore., and Longview, Wash., to halt parts of their operations Monday.

Disruptions caused by protesters likely cost businesses, workers and the surrounding community millions of dollars, said Port of Oakland spokesman Isaac Kos-Read.

Though the port did not provide a breakdown of specific losses caused by the blockades, Kos-Read said officials estimate the port typically generates about $8.5 million per day in business revenue, wages, taxes and other economic activity.

"It's the ripple effect," he said.

Protesters in Oakland began blocking port entrances early Monday morning, leading to a major slowdown of operations when most longshoremen were sent home from the morning shift. Protests in the afternoon and through the night led to the cancellation of two more shifts.

The longshoremen's union said the blockades resulted in about 500 canceled shifts but that the work will have to be made up to handle the backlogged cargo.

Normal operations at the port resumed Tuesday morning, Oakland port officials said.

The Port of Portland opened one hour early Tuesday to deal with the backlog of work, said port spokesman Josh Thomas.

The port's first and second shifts were told not to report to work Monday because of safety concerns. Protesters blocked the port's two main terminals.

"It's good to get people back to work," Thomas said.

Work was also disrupted in Longview, Wash., where longshoremen have had a longstanding dispute with grain exporter EGT. Protest organizers had made the conflict in Longview a focal point of their demonstrations. Operations there had returned to normal by Tuesday.

At least one outside observer who has followed political movements for decades said the port blockades were an indicator of the disruptive activities likely to continue until next year's presidential elections.

"There will be more of a tendency toward militant disruptive activity," said Todd Gitlin, a sociologist at Columbia University and an authority on social movements. "There's going to be a number of coordinated actions and this is going to go on for months."

The movement, which sprang up this fall against what it sees as corporate greed and economic inequality, focused on the ports as the "economic engines for the elite." It comes weeks after police raids cleared out most of their tent camps.

While the protests attracted far fewer people than the 10,000 who turned out Nov. 2 to shut down Oakland's port, organizers declared victory and promised more demonstrations.


Associated Press writers Beth Duff-Brown in San Francisco, and Nigel Duara in Portland, Ore., contributed to this report.

By Salon Staff

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