Disruptions at West Coast Ports Continue Amid Labor Negotiations

Continuing labor disruptions at West Coast ports are causing concerns, as peak shipping season begins. Work slowdowns, due ongoing contract negotiations, have particularly affected cargo-processing operations at the two key California major ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. Dockworkers belonging to the International Longshoremen and Warehouse Union (ILWU) have continued to “disrupt operations” at West Coast ports, according to a June 5 statement by the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), which represents the shipping industry in the region. The PMA and ILWU have been in talks over a new contract since May 10, 2022, while the union’s collective-bargaining agreement expired last July. Meanwhile, both parties have yet to yield an agreement. The ILWU represents 22,000 workers, at 29 ports on the West Coast, who would be covered by the collective-bargaining agreement if a deal were struck with the PMA. “It’s important to understand that West Coast dockworkers kept the economy going during the pandemic and lost their lives doing so,” said ILWU International president Willie Adams in a June 3 tweet. “We aren’t going to settle for an economic package that doesn’t recognize the heroic efforts and personal sacrifices of the ILWU workforce that lifted the shipping industry to record profits.” The PMA has accused the ILWU of coordinating a series of work disruptions that slowed down operations at “at key marine terminals at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and elsewhere on the West Coast, including the ports of Oakland and Seattle.” “Union leaders are implementing many familiar disruption tactics from their job action playbook, including refusing to dispatch workers to marine terminals, slowing operations, and making unfounded health and safety claims,” said the PMA in a statement. The PMA further accused the ILWU of declining to dispatch “lashers” who secure cargo for trans-Pacific voyages at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which caused ships filled with American exports to sit idle at the docks and unable to depart. The PMA said that the behavior by the union slowed down operations at those ports from June 2 to June 7, but that conditions had improved by the end of last week. Since then, the ILWU slowed down operations at the ports of Seattle and Tacoma, and shut down cargo operations in Seattle over the weekend. Adams denied that there was a shutdown, stating in a tweet: “Despite what you are hearing from PMA, West Coast ports are open as we continue to work under our expired collective bargaining agreement.” He said the union “remains committed to bargaining a contract that is fair and equitable and represents the hard work and contributions of its members toward the ongoing success of the multi-billion-dollar shipping industry.” The union boss also accused the PMA of “using the media to leverage one-sided information in [an] attempt to influence the process.” As the situation at the ports worsen, major commercial and industry organizations are now asking the White House to intervene for the sake of the wider U.S. economy. On June 9, Suzanne Clark, president the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, wrote a letter to President Joe Biden, warning his administration about the “premeditated and disruptive service actions that are slowing operations at several major West Coast ports during ongoing contract negotiations between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA).” “With continued and potentially expanded service disruptions at these ports heading into peak shipping season, we urge your administration to intervene immediately and appoint an independent mediator to help the two parties reach an agreement that prevents significant economic harm to American families and the economy,” wrote Clark. Clark called the service disruptions a familiar tactic by West Coast port union leaders during contract negotiations over the past two decades, in reference to the work slowdowns and 11-day shutdown in 2002, the three-week strike in 2008, and the work slowdowns of 2014. “In each case, service disruptions began gradually and then escalated. Government intervention was necessary to resolve two of the last three negotiations,” said Clark. She said that those incidents support “the necessity of intervention by the administration to prevent a larger economic catastrophe.” The Commerce Chamber president said that any serious work stoppage at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach would likely cost the U.S. economy nearly half a billion dollars a day. She warned that a more widespread strike along the West Coast could cost approximately $1 billion per day, based on the losses sustained by the stoppages in 2002. Clark said that the West Coast ports represents an economic value of 12.5 percent of U.S. GDP, and are responsible for moving over 50 percent of all U.S. imports. The Commerce Chamber believes that the conflict would be best solved with

Disruptions at West Coast Ports Continue Amid Labor Negotiations

Continuing labor disruptions at West Coast ports are causing concerns, as peak shipping season begins.

Work slowdowns, due ongoing contract negotiations, have particularly affected cargo-processing operations at the two key California major ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.

Dockworkers belonging to the International Longshoremen and Warehouse Union (ILWU) have continued to “disrupt operations” at West Coast ports, according to a June 5 statement by the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), which represents the shipping industry in the region.

The PMA and ILWU have been in talks over a new contract since May 10, 2022, while the union’s collective-bargaining agreement expired last July.

Meanwhile, both parties have yet to yield an agreement.

The ILWU represents 22,000 workers, at 29 ports on the West Coast, who would be covered by the collective-bargaining agreement if a deal were struck with the PMA.

“It’s important to understand that West Coast dockworkers kept the economy going during the pandemic and lost their lives doing so,” said ILWU International president Willie Adams in a June 3 tweet.

“We aren’t going to settle for an economic package that doesn’t recognize the heroic efforts and personal sacrifices of the ILWU workforce that lifted the shipping industry to record profits.”

The PMA has accused the ILWU of coordinating a series of work disruptions that slowed down operations at “at key marine terminals at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and elsewhere on the West Coast, including the ports of Oakland and Seattle.”

“Union leaders are implementing many familiar disruption tactics from their job action playbook, including refusing to dispatch workers to marine terminals, slowing operations, and making unfounded health and safety claims,” said the PMA in a statement.

The PMA further accused the ILWU of declining to dispatch “lashers” who secure cargo for trans-Pacific voyages at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which caused ships filled with American exports to sit idle at the docks and unable to depart.

The PMA said that the behavior by the union slowed down operations at those ports from June 2 to June 7, but that conditions had improved by the end of last week.

Since then, the ILWU slowed down operations at the ports of Seattle and Tacoma, and shut down cargo operations in Seattle over the weekend.

Adams denied that there was a shutdown, stating in a tweet: “Despite what you are hearing from PMA, West Coast ports are open as we continue to work under our expired collective bargaining agreement.”

He said the union “remains committed to bargaining a contract that is fair and equitable and represents the hard work and contributions of its members toward the ongoing success of the multi-billion-dollar shipping industry.”

The union boss also accused the PMA of “using the media to leverage one-sided information in [an] attempt to influence the process.”

As the situation at the ports worsen, major commercial and industry organizations are now asking the White House to intervene for the sake of the wider U.S. economy.

On June 9, Suzanne Clark, president the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, wrote a letter to President Joe Biden, warning his administration about the “premeditated and disruptive service actions that are slowing operations at several major West Coast ports during ongoing contract negotiations between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA).”

“With continued and potentially expanded service disruptions at these ports heading into peak shipping season, we urge your administration to intervene immediately and appoint an independent mediator to help the two parties reach an agreement that prevents significant economic harm to American families and the economy,” wrote Clark.

Clark called the service disruptions a familiar tactic by West Coast port union leaders during contract negotiations over the past two decades, in reference to the work slowdowns and 11-day shutdown in 2002, the three-week strike in 2008, and the work slowdowns of 2014.

“In each case, service disruptions began gradually and then escalated. Government intervention was necessary to resolve two of the last three negotiations,” said Clark.

She said that those incidents support “the necessity of intervention by the administration to prevent a larger economic catastrophe.”

The Commerce Chamber president said that any serious work stoppage at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach would likely cost the U.S. economy nearly half a billion dollars a day.

She warned that a more widespread strike along the West Coast could cost approximately $1 billion per day, based on the losses sustained by the stoppages in 2002.

Clark said that the West Coast ports represents an economic value of 12.5 percent of U.S. GDP, and are responsible for moving over 50 percent of all U.S. imports.

The Commerce Chamber believes that the conflict would be best solved with a mutual agreement reached between both parties, but is concerned that an impasse over wages and benefits will hold up any such deal.

Clark pleaded for President Biden to “appoint an independent mediator to help the parties reach a voluntary agreement” as the best way to solve the port crisis.

“As shown above, the ILWU and PMA have supported similar solutions in years past, and it is a solution championed by Republican and Democratic administrations,” Clark noted.

“This step is necessary to avoid potentially billions of dollars in economic damage to the American economy before it occurs. In addition, we urge your administration to continue engaging directly with both parties and to consider additional steps that may be necessary in the event of a widespread work stoppage,” she added.