Labor Disruptions Continue at West Coast Ports, PMA Says

Image: International Longshore and Warehouse Union.
Image: Pacific Maritime Association.

The organization representing maritime companies in contract talks with West Coast longshore workers is saying that some West Coast ports continue to experience “significant slowdowns” by union work actions.

The union, however, is denying accusations of coordinated stoppages.

The Pacific Maritime Association said June 10 that “coordinated and disruptive work actions led by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union” have shut down cargo operations at the Port of Seattle.

“On the second and third shift yesterday, work slowdowns directed by ILWU officials brought ground operations at marine terminals to a halt, resulting in longshore workers being sent home. On the first shift today, the ILWU refused to dispatch any longshore workers to container terminals,” the PMA said in a statement.

A day earlier, the maritime association said that various West Coast ports, including those in  Tacoma, Long Beach, Oakland, continue to be affected by “coordinated and disruptive work actions” that started June 2 by the ILWU.

In Oakland, for example, three international marine terminals suspended operations over the weekend due to a lack of labor, while its domestic terminal, Matson, had limited operations. On June 11, terminals suspended operations to mourn the death of a longshore worker.

All marine terminals resumed operations by the morning of June 5, according to the port.

The Port of Los Angeles also said all terminals are fully operational.

The PMA and ILWU have been trying to hammer out a new contract that covers more than 22,000 dockworkers at 29 ports along the U.S. West Coast. Talks have been ongoing since May 2022. The previous contract expired July 1, 2022.

On June 9, the PMA accused the ILWU of refusing to dispatch lashers – workers who secure and unfasten cargo from vessels – at L.A. and Long Beach, effectively preventing cargo from being loaded and unloaded.

“The ILWU’s refusal to dispatch lashers had been part of a broader effort to withhold necessary labor from the docks,” said the PMA, adding that the ILWU did not fill 260 of the 900 jobs ordered at Los Angeles and Long Beach on June 7. 

“In total, 559 registered longshore workers who came to the dispatch hall were denied work opportunities by the union,” PMA said.

The ILWU on June 10 said it “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 also accused PMA of trying to “influence the process” through the media.

“Despite what you are hearing from PMA, West Coast ports are open as we continue to work under our expired collective bargaining agreement,” International President Willie Adams said.

The ILWU also said both sides continue to negotiate and “are committed to reaching an agreement.”

Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka reassured the public at the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners meeting June 7.

“We all understand the cargo has moved away from us in part because of import and exporters’ trepidations about labor disruption,” Seroka said, adding that in the last 13 months there has been only two days when the port “did not see a full complement of our great workforce on the job.” 

“We’ll continue to do everything we can to encourage both sides to stay at the table, working on the details, come up with good resolutions, and then work collectively to bring as much of the cargo back here to Southern California that we can,” he said.

By Karen Robes Meeks