While the ongoing labor negotiations between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) ostensibly going from bad to worse, following the ILWU’s announcement late last week that it was halting negotiations from November 20 through November 30, a Congressional group last week penned a letter to PMA and ILWU leadership expressing concern over the state of the negotiations. The PMA and ILWU contract expired on July 1, and talks between the PMA and ILWU have been ongoing since May 12.
News / Ocean Market
As we have chronicled here in recent days, U.S. agricultural shippers are demanding that a solution to the West Coast dockside labor problem be made a national priority. They argue – and quite rightly from our point of view – that the lack of progress in contract talks between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) threaten the President’s own National Export Initiative.
The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) today issued the following update regarding continued union slowdowns and work actions at the major West Coast ports. The union actions are tied to the ongoing negotiations for a new coast-wide labor contract. Negotiations began in May for the contract that expired July 1, and talks have been occurring almost constantly for the past six months.
More than 40 percent of the goods that come into the United States from overseas come through the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. That fact alone gives thousands of truck drivers who haul those goods from the ports to warehouses considerable leverage with big companies (like Walmart, Cosco, and Home Depot) whose goods are mostly made in Asia as well as with the shipping companies, the municipal Harbor Commission which oversees the port, and the trucking companies who employ the drivers.
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.
“Import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to slow down this month following record levels seen in September and October as retailers rushed to bring merchandise into the country ahead of a possible shutdown of West Coast ports, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.”
Strong cargo volumes continued into early November at the Port of Long Beach, resulting in delays due to a shortage of truck trailers, but underscoring this year’s rebound in international trade and pointing to an economic upswing.
On Thursday, November 6th, the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) released a press release accusing the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) of now targeting the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The PMA indicates in their statement that since Monday November 3rd, the ILWU has been “refusing to dispatch hundreds of qualified, skilled workers for critically important positions transporting containers in terminal yards at the nations’s largest port complex.”
As contract negotiations resume today between the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), a war of words and allegations has escalated in the trade press. In a statement released this morning, the ILWU said the PMA “dishonestly” accuses the union of breaking a spoken agreement that port operations would continue under the auspices of a temporary contract extension.