For months, contract negotiations between a powerful union and multinational shipping lines progressed amicably in public, even though roughly 20,000 West Coast dockworkers labored without a contract.
Now the public harmony has been shattered, raising fears that a strike or lockout could close ports up and down the coast and cause economic pain.
The Pacific Maritime Association, which represents employers operating port terminals and shipping lines, has accused the International Longshore and Warehouse Union of deliberately slowing operations at four major West Coast ports, including Los Angeles and Long Beach – the nation’s busiest complex.
The union, in turn, has expressed mounting irritation with a lack of progress toward a new contract. On Monday, the union decried what it called management’s “deceitful media tactics,” which the union said are designed to blame it for brutal congestion at West Coast ports.
The public sniping, experts said, signals that both sides have grown frustrated and probably have come to an impasse at the negotiating table.
“The risk of disruption at West Coast ports by Thanksgiving is increasing day by day,” international trade economist Jock O’Connell said.
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