West Coast Ports unsettled

West Coast Ports unsettled

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West Coast Ports unsettled

Various reports provide conflicting messages from the management and labor perspectives of the ongoing U.S. West Coast seaport labor dispute.

On June 12, the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) stated that, on June 11 at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) “resumed its past practice of withholding lashers from terminals at the nation’s largest port complex, resulting in vessels having to miss their scheduled departures. The Union also did not fill orders for labor from several terminal operators despite the fact they were placed properly and on time.”

PMA also indicates that at the Port of Seattle, ILWU continued to stage disruptive work actions that led to containerized terminal operations coming to a halt. In some cases, the Union slowed down operations, resulting in longshore workers being sent home. On another shift, the Union failed to dispatch longshore workers which effectively shut down the port. 

“These disruptive actions by the ILWU contrast sharply with a press release issued by the ILWU on Saturday (June 10) in which ILWU President Willie Adams was quoted saying, ‘Despite what you are hearing from PMA, West Coast ports are open as we continue to work under our expired collective bargaining agreement.’ For months, the ILWU has staged disruptive work actions targeting the West Coast’s largest ports. These actions have either slowed operations or shut them down altogether, impeding the supply chain and leaving ships and the American exports they carry sitting idle at the docks.”

PMA further notes that the Union’s actions have included delaying the daily standard dispatch process; withholding specialized workers, such as cargo-handling equipment operators or lashers; making unfounded health and safety claims; deliberately conducting inspections that are not routine, not scheduled, and done in a way that disrupt terminal operations; and improperly coordinating lunch and unit breaks to drain all labor from the terminals at the same time.

Related articles: Pacific seaports face labor “no show”

On June 11, the Lloyds Intelligence in England ran the headline, “West coast delays subside as labor disruptions ease.” Lloyds continues, “A week after labor action began forcing terminal closures and slowdowns, vessel delays that started creeping up midweek have largely dissolved in most west coast ports as dockworkers resumed sufficient staffing levels.” 

Reuters on June 10 explains that unions are seeking a pay increase that reflects workers' contribution to the ocean shipping industry's record profits from the pandemic cargo boom. They also want added compensation for the hours worked since their contract expired.

Reuters indicates that “West Coast ports stretching from California to Washington state are critical to the U.S. supply chains and the economy. More than 22,000 dockworkers at those trade gateways have been working without a contract since July. 

Also, it notes the largest U.S. business group (the U.S. Chamber of Commerce) on Friday urged President Joe Biden to intervene immediately and appoint an independent mediator to address a protracted West Coast ports labor dispute. Reuters reports that U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Suzanne Clark in a letter to Biden cited "continued and potentially expanded service disruptions at these ports heading into peak shipping season.”

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