After four months of tense negotiations, the dockworkers union and a group of shipping lines late Thursday blamed each other for a breakdown at the bargaining table that threatens to disrupt commerce at West Coast ports as early as today.
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union hinted at an orchestrated slowdown. The union's negotiating committee Thursday urged all union members to follow all safety regulations.
The Pacific Maritime Assn., which represents shipping lines and terminal operators, interpreted that as a call to slow work on the docks.
An association spokesman said significant slowdowns were seen in Seattle and Tacoma, Wash., on Thursday, causing some ships to leave unloaded containers on the docks.
An estimated $1 billion in cargo passes through the ports, from San Diego to Seattle, every day.