Things are heating up in the midst of contract negotiations between the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents ocean carriers and terminal operators, and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents West Coast dockworkers.
In an April 13 new release, PMA accused ILWU Local 13 of withholding labor at the Los Angeles and Long Beach seaports and refusing to allow PMA to take part in a labor dispatch procedure that is jointly administered by the union and employers, moves that the PMA says shut down terminals at the adjoining ports earlier this month.
PMA also says Local 13 has also stopped adhering to a contract provision that gives employers “the right to assign staggered shifts during meal periods so cargo can continue to be received and delivered without interruption.”
“These actions have slowed the start of operations throughout the Southern California port complex,” according to PMA, adding that the union “has forced crucial cargo handling equipment to be taken out of operation at several key terminals.”
The ILWU and Local 13 did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
This clash is happening in the backdrop of a fierce battle over a new contract that covers more than 22,000 dockworkers at 29 ports along the U.S. West Coast.
Contract talks have been ongoing for nearly a year. Both sides began negotiations in May 2022, and up until recently, talks appeared to be congenial. On Feb. 23, PMA and ILWU issued a joint statement saying they “remain hopeful of reaching a deal soon” and emphasized that ports on the West Coast continue to operate.
“The parties have reached a tentative agreement on certain key issues, including health benefits, and remain committed to resolving remaining issues as expeditiously as possible,” the two parties said in a Feb. 23 joint statement. “Talks are continuing on an ongoing basis until an agreement is reached.”
Now, the tone appears to be different.
“As has been pointed out for years, any actions that undermine confidence in West Coast ports threaten to further accelerate the diversion of discretionary cargo to Atlantic and Gulf Coast ports,” PMA said April 13.
“Cargo diversion places quality jobs at risk far beyond the docks, including truck drivers, warehouse workers, and thousands of others whose livelihoods depend on ongoing operations at the port.”