Oakland Port labor dispute impacting Bay Area small businesses

Laura Anthony Image
ByLaura Anthony KGO logo
Friday, February 6, 2015
Oakland Port labor dispute impacting small businesses
The slowdown and ongoing labor dispute at California's ports is severely impacting many small businesses around the Bay Area.

SAN LEANDRO, Calif. (KGO) -- The slowdown and ongoing labor dispute at California's ports is severely impacting many small businesses around the Bay Area.

A crowded line of cargo ships sits idle, waiting to be off-loaded at the Port of Oakland. The long delays are because of a bitter labor dispute between the dockworkers union and the shipping company.

In some cases they've basically had to cease operations for lack of product, which is effecting small businesses.

Fairfield's Doug Daut, the owner of Electric Bike Solutions, buys components and batteries from China to turn regular bikes into electric vehicles.

"You take your old wheel off and you get a new wheel with the motor already laced into it," explains Daut to a customer.

But thanks to the work slowdown at the port, he hasn't received a new parts shipment in three months.

"For a small business like mine, while I plan for those down times, there comes a time when it shuts you down and that's where I'm at right now," said Daut.

VIDEO: Truckers say Oakland Port slowdown impacting business

Last he heard, the container carrying Daut's badly needed components is stuck in Long Beach. And if he can't supply his customers, Daut worries he won't be able to feed his family.

"I'm a little frustrated in knowing that an organization is using my family as a bargaining tool," said Daut.

"Typicall we would unload four times as many containers as we are right now," said San Leandro's Dave Weber. His product is literally sitting out in the Bay on a container ship.

Weber's company, the Annex Consolidation Center, supplies green coffees and teas to cafes and restaurants all over the Bay Area. Customers now just have to wait.

"It's impacting the inbound product, making it available for the roasters. Everybody's frustrated if you will, anxious to get product that should have already been here," explained Weber.

Weber says he's already had to impose rotating lay-offs on his employees and he realizes even if the labor dispute at the port is resolved soon, it could take weeks or months for his shipments to return to normal.

Meanwhile, the head of the West Coast ports issued an ultimatum Wednesday that could shut down the ports by next week, including the one in Oakland.

He said employers could lock-out longshoremen in the next five to 10 days if they can't reach a deal on a new labor contract.

The longshoremen's union said small differences are holding up a deal.

The latest contract offer gives dockworkers an annual salary of $167,000 a year.