Businesses squeezed by Port’s labor problems

Port of Portland still negotating with labor unions

Tim Sheils, the president of Pine Crest Fabrics, in Portland, Feb. 3, 2015 (KOIN 6 News)
Tim Sheils, the president of Pine Crest Fabrics, in Portland, Feb. 3, 2015 (KOIN 6 News)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) — There are 16 employees at Pine Crest Fabrics, a small business that relies heavily on a steady flow of shipments through the Port of Portland.

But the slowdown caused by the on-again/off-again labor slowdown and dispute is having a painful effect on their bottom line.

Pine Crest Fabrics president Tim Sheils said his warehouse isn’t as full as it used to be, which is a major problem in meeting customer demand.

“That’s the biggest pain for me, when you’re answering a customer with, I can’t give you an exact date,” he told KOIN 6 News. “That just feels terrible.”

A shipment moves at the Port of Portland, Feb. 3, 2015 (KOIN 6 News)
A shipment moves at the Port of Portland, Feb. 3, 2015 (KOIN 6 News)

He said 70% of his product comes from South Korea. Foreign suppliers are affected by the port’s labor dispute, making this out of his control.

“We don’t have transparency of where our shipments are,” he said.

The work stoppages, according to the Port of Portland’s terminal operator, reduced production in the final quarter of 2014 by 47%.

Inside Pine Crest Fabrics, 6015 Northeast 80th Avenue, in Portland, Feb. 3, 2015 (KOIN 6 News)
Inside Pine Crest Fabrics, 6015 Northeast 80th Avenue, in Portland, Feb. 3, 2015 (KOIN 6 News)

That’s about the same time Pine Crest Fabrics began feeling a pinch on their profits.

“It’s costing us probably $2,000 a week in lost sales,” Sheils said.

His customers need to meet their own production deadlines and shipments are regularly arriving up to three weeks late.

“It’s one of the worst answers to say I can’t give you an exact date on when it’s actually going to be here,” he said, “because with the port and what’s going on with the unions, we don’t know.”

Pine Crest Fabrics, 6015 NE 80th Avenue, has already lost about $30,000 in sales the past two months, and there is still no end in sight for the labor dispute. The union and port operator are still negotiating wages and pensions.

And that’s unsettling for Sheils and his company.

“We have a couple really large customers that are looking at their options because of our delivery times right now,” he said.

Josh Thomas with the Port of Portland said with current demand — and no supply — prices for many different types of items could go up.

“You are talking about shoes and apparel, tires, furniture, toys, just about anything you have in your house or office,” Thomas said.

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