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Strike At Port Of Baltimore Could Have Huge Md. Impact

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Alex DeMetrick 370x278 Alex DeMetrick
Alex DeMetrick has been a general assignment reporter with WJZ...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore’s port is still shut down for a second day. Striking longshoremen and ship companies have yet to reach a contract settlement.

Alex DeMetrick reports the longer the strike goes on, the greater the economic risk.

By going out on strike, longshoremen know one thing is guaranteed.

“I don’t get paid,” one worker said.

As ships sit idle, almost no one does. That impacts 15,000 jobs directly tied to the port and tens of thousands more in support services, like trucking.

The port generates $3 billion a year in wages and another $300,000 a year in taxes.

Just the number of cars alone that come in and go out, the port is “number one in the nation,” said Jim White, Maryland Port Authority director. “We overtook New York about two years ago.”

Strikers, looking for better wage and workplace guarantees, know more than this week’s paychecks are at risk.

“We hope that it will be resolved quickly so it will not interrupt commerce any more than it is right now,” said Charles Gibbs, longshoreman.

Shutting down the Port of Baltimore opens the window of opportunity for other ports.

“And that’s what’s scary,” said Helen Delich Bentley, port administration adviser.  “Labor stability is so important, and more so today than ever. Ships cost anywhere from $30,000 to $100,000 a day. They’re not going to waste any time.”

“Keep the ships in the port as little as possible and then push them out, so these types of things don’t make us an attractive place,” said Darius Irsani, Towson University economic studies.

And if cargo is diverted to other ports like Norfolk — even temporarily — down the line, “you might lose out forever,” Irsani said.

Between Maine and the Gulf of Mexico, Baltimore is currently the only port closed by a strike.

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