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Strike Shuts Down Shipping on St. Lawrence Seaway, Disrupting Exports

by Anna

A strike by approximately 360 workers with Unifor, Canada’s largest private-sector union, has shut down shipping on the St. Lawrence Seaway. The strike, which began early Sunday, has affected 13 locks between Lake Erie and Montreal, impacting shipping on the Great Lakes and the flow of goods between Canada and the United States to the rest of the world. This strike has halted exports of grain and other commodities worth billions of dollars. This labor dispute is the first time a strike has closed the vital shipping artery since 1968.

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The strike, related to a wage dispute, has disrupted the movement of goods such as grain, salt for winter roads, and iron ore for steelmaking. Management has requested that the Canadian government invoke a law to allow ships carrying grain to transit the system, but the government has not yet intervened.

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Officials in the United States are pushing for a resolution, as numerous ships remain inside the system, including several oceangoing ships, at a major bottleneck, the closed Welland Canal in Ontario. The economic impact of the shutdown is estimated at $110 million ($153 million Canadian) per day.

The strike’s timing is critical as it coincides with the peak harvest season, affecting seaway operations during a period of high shipping activity. Port authorities in Duluth, Minnesota, and Superior, Wisconsin, expressed concerns, and Great Lakes ports and unions are urging the Canadian government to intervene and expedite a resolution to reopen the seaway for full functionality.

The Canadian government has ordered both parties to return to the bargaining table with a federal mediator in Toronto to seek a resolution to the labor dispute.

Overall, the strike has significant economic consequences and disrupts a key trade corridor for the movement of goods between Canada and the United States, affecting the supply chain and various industries.

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