238 Trade Associations Write Biden to Mediate ILWU Negotiations (Read Full Letter)

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ILWU Disruption & Contract Negotiations – Universal Shipping News

A group of 238 state, local, and federal trade associations sent a letter to President Biden, imploring him and his administration to mediate the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) contract negotiations to help the parties reach a new agreement quickly and prevent cargo fluidity disruption at the ports.

The Senior Director of Media Relations for the National Retail Federation, Danielle Inman, sent me an email yesterday with a link to the letter the trade associations sent.

The urgency of the situation was just punctuated by disruption at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, where ILWU Local 13 members refused to stagger their lunch breaks, causing terminal delays and truck backups from those terminals, according to the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), representing the employers at the West Coast ports.

Labor action, disrupting port operations, has become a regular occurrence at West Coast ports during ILWU contract negotiations. And it’s a very costly occurrence for shippers and the U.S. economy in general. When the 2014-15 contract negotiations turned contentious and caused agricultural exports to rot on the docks and kept import goods from reaching shelves in time for the holiday shopping season, it cost the economy billions of dollars. Many U.S. exporters permanently lost international trade partners.

As talked about in previous posts, the disruptions during these current contract negotiations have been mitigated by reduced cargo at West Coast ports because of economic downturn and shippers diverting cargo from the West Coast to East and Gulf Coast ports when possible. However, if a new contract isn’t reached as cargo volumes see increase, particularly during the upcoming peak season, it could easily turn very costly for shippers and the economy.

In their letter, the trade associations point out that it has been over 8 months since the ILWU master contract expired and over 10 months since negotiations began. All the while, there has been “little to no progress towards a new long-term agreement.”

Diplomatically in the letter, the trade associations “applaud the engagement from former Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh through the negotiations” despite the lack of progress that has been made in the talks. The associations show concern that there is no longer a point person from the White House for the negotiations since Walsh departed the administration:

… it is critical that a new administration point person be named to continue engagement with the parties as they negotiate. With the lack of progress to date, we would also encourage the administration to offer mediation services to the parties in their negotiations.

Ultimately, the trade associations’ message is that the PMA and ILWU must remain at the negotiating table until a new contract is reached. They ask for leadership from the president of the United States to ensure that happens. Through the course of these negotiations, there has been a great deal of time where talks have been completely stalled out and suspended. The risk and uncertainty this presents to supply chain stakeholders, who are already dealing with a great deal of economic uncertainty and massive inflation, is incredibly high.

Below is the full text of the letter to President Biden, including all the names of the associations that signed it.

Full Text of Letter

March 24, 2023

The Honorable Joseph R. Biden
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Biden,

On behalf of the undersigned organizations, and the millions of businesses and employees we represent, we are writing to you once again regarding the ongoing West Coast port labor negotiations between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association. The labor contract has now been expired for over eight months. Negotiations have been ongoing for over ten months, with little to no progress towards a new long-term agreement. It is imperative that the administration work with the parties to quickly reach a new agreement and ensure there is no disruption to port operations and cargo fluidity.

We previously shared our concerns on July 1, 2022 when the contract initially expired. At that time we called upon the administration to engage with the parties as well as urged the parties to agree to a contract extension while negotiations continued. We applaud the engagement from former Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh through the negotiations. Now that he has departed the administration it is critical that a new administration point person be named to continue engagement with the parties as they negotiate. With the lack of progress to date, we would also encourage the administration to offer mediation services to the parties in their negotiations.

As we have witnessed, significant cargo flows have shifted away from the West Coast ports because of the uncertainty related to the labor negotiations. While there certainly are other issues impacting the West Coast ports, many cargo interests have expressly stated that they shifted cargo as a result of the negotiations. That cargo will not return to the West Coast until after a contract is final and approved by both parties. The longer there is no ratified contract only increases the probability that some portion of the freight will never return to the West Coast ports.

Businesses have already made their shipping decisions for the all-important peak shipping season, which will begin this summer. Even though cargo volumes have dropped, we continue to experience supply chain stress and challenges. While many continue to recover from pandemic related issues, the ongoing stress of inflation and economic uncertainty continues to impact supply chain stakeholders as well.

The lack of a labor contract adds to this uncertainty. While we appreciate that the parties agreed not to engage in a strike or a lockout, we are aware of several instances of activities that have impacted terminal operations. We need the administration to ensure these activities do not continue or escalate.

We know that significant issues remain for both parties to resolve. However, the only way to resolve these issues is for the parties to remain at the bargaining table and actually negotiate. We encourage the administration to provide any and all support to the parties in their negotiations to reach a final agreement.

As we have said previously, the only way the parties can reach an agreement that will ensure the continued competitiveness of the ports and the supply chain stakeholders who rely upon them is to remain at the table until a new agreement is finalized. Thank you for your leadership on this important issue.


Agribusiness Council of Indiana
Agricultural Retailers Association
Agriculture Transportation Coalition – AgTC
Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration
Airforwarders Association
Alliance for Automotive Innovation
Almond Alliance
American Apparel & Footwear Association
American Association of Exporters and
American Bakers Association
American Chemistry Council
American Clean Power Association
American Composites Manufacturers
American Cotton Shippers Association
American Down and Feather Council
American Farm Bureau Federation
American Feed Industry Association
American Forest & Paper Association
American Foundry Society
American Herbal Products Association
American Home Furnishings Alliance
American International Automobile Dealers
American Lighting Association
American Pyrotechnics Association
American Seed Trade Association
American Spice Trade Association
American Trucking Associations
Arizona Retailers Association
Arizona Trucking Association
Associated Builders and Contractors
Associated Equipment Distributors
Associated General Contractors of America
Association of American Railroads
Association of Food Industries
Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers
Auto Care Association
Autos Drive America
Bay Area Council
Beer Institute
California Alfalfa and Forage Association
California Association of Wheat Growers
California Bean Shippers Association
California Building Industry Association
California Business Properties Association
California Chamber of Commerce
California Citrus Mutual
California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association
California Grain and Feed Association
California Hotel + Lodging Association
California Retailers Association
California Rice Commission
California Seed Association
California State Floral Association
California Trucking Association
California Warehouse Association
Can Manufacturers Institute
Cascade Shippers Association
CAWA – Representing the Automotive Parts Industry
Coalition of New England Companies for Trade
Colorado Motor Carriers Association
Columbia River Customs Brokers & Forwarders Association
Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA)
Consumer Brands Association
Consumer Technology Association
Corn Refiners Association
Cotton Growers Warehouse Association
Council for Responsible Nutrition
Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA)
Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals
Customs Brokers & Forwarders Association of Northern California
Customs Brokers & International Freight
Forwarders Association of Washington State
Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S.
Fashion Accessories Shippers Association, Inc.
Fashion Jewelry & Accessories Trade Association
Florida Trucking Association
FMI – The Food Industry Association
Footwear Distributors & Retailers of America (FDRA)
Foreign Trade Association
Forest Resources Association
Fresh Produce Association of the Americas
Gemini Shippers Association
Georgia Motor Trucking Association
Glass Packaging Institute
Global Cold Chain Alliance
Grain and Feed Association of Illinois
Greenabl Shippers Association
Halloween & Costume Association
Harbor Trucking Association
Hawaii Transportation Association
Home Fashion Products Association
Household & Commercial Products Association
Idaho Retailers Association
Illinois Retail Merchants Association
Independent Electrical Contractors
Indiana Motor Truck Association
Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc.
Intermodal Motor Carriers Conference
International Casual Furnishings Association
International Dairy Foods Association
International Foodservice Distributors Association
International Franchise Association
International Fresh Produce Association
International Housewares Association
International Warehouse Logistics Association
Iowa Motor Truck Association
ISSA, The Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association
Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association
Kansas Chamber
Kansas Motor Carriers Association
Kansas Retail Council
Kentucky Retail Federation
Littler Workplace Policy Institute
Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce
Los Angeles County Business Federation
Los Angeles Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders Association
Louisiana Retailers Association
Maryland Retailers Association
MEMA, The Vehicle Suppliers Association
Michigan Retailers Association
Minnesota Grain and Feed Association
Minnesota Retailers Association
Minnesota Soybean Growers Association
Mississippi Trucking Association
Missouri Retailers Association
Montana Retail Association
Motorcycle Industry Council
NAIOP Inland Empire Chapter
NAIOP of California
National Association of Beverage Importers
National Association of Chemical Distributors
National Association of Manufacturers
National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors
National Confectioners Association
National Corn Growers Association
National Cotton Council
National Council of Farmer Cooperatives
National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America
National Electrical Manufacturers Association
National Federation of Independent Business
National Fisheries Institute
National Hay Association
National Industrial Transportation League
National Lumber & Building Material Dealers Association
National Milk Producers Federation
National Pork Producers Council
National Potato Council
National Restaurant Association
National Retail Federation
National Sorghum Producers
National Sporting Goods Association
National Wooden Pallet & Container Association
Natural Products Association
Nebraska Retail Federation
Nebraska Trucking Association
New Hampshire Motor Truck Association
New Jersey Retail Merchants Association
New Mexico trucking Association
New York New Jersey Foreign Freight
Forwarders and Brokers Association Inc.
North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers (NAFEM)
North American Home Furnishings Association
North American Meat Institute
North American Renderers Association
North Carolina Retail Merchants Association
North Dakota Grain Growers Association
Northwest Horticultural Council
Ohio Council of Retail Merchants
Orange County Business Council
Oregon Retail Council
Oregon Trucking Association
Outdoor Industry Association
Outdoor Power Equipment Institute
Pacific Coast Council of Customs Brokers and
Freight Forwarders Assns. – PCC
Pacific Coast Renderers Association
Pacific Seed Association
Pennsylvania Retailers AssociationPlant
California Alliance
Plumbing Manufacturers International
Portland Cement Association
PRINTING United Alliance
Promotional Products Association International (PPAI)
Railway Supply Institute
Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association (ROHVA)
Renewable Fuels Association
Retail Association of Nevada
Retail Council of New York State
Retail Industry Leaders Association
Retail Merchants of Hawaii
Retailers Association of Massachusetts
Rhode Island Trucking Association, Inc.
RV Industry Association
San Diego Customs Brokers Association
San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership
SNAC International
Snowsports Industry America
Society of Chemical Manufacturers & Affiliates (SOCMA)
South Dakota Association of Cooperatives
South Dakota Soybean Association
Southern California Leadership Council
Specialty Crop Trade Council
Specialty Equipment Market Association
Specialty Soya & Grains Alliance
Specialty Vehicle Institute of America (SVIA)
Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA)
Tag and Label Manufacturers Institute
Tea Association of the U.S.A., Inc.
The Fertilizer Institute
The Game Manufacturers Association
The Hardwood Federation
The Nevada Trucking Association
The Sulphur Institute
The Toy Association
Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA)
Travel Goods Association (TGA)
U.S. Apple Association
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
U.S. Dairy Export Council
U.S. Fashion Industry Association
U.S. Forage Export Council
U.S. Meat Export Federation
United States Council for International Business
USA Rice
Utah Retail Merchants Association
Vermont Truck & Bus Association
Virginia Retail Federation
Washington Retail Association
Washington State Potato Commission
Washington State Tree Fruit Association
Washington Trucking Associations
West Virginia Retailers Association
Western Agricultural Processors Association
Western Growers
Window & Door Manufacturers Association
Wine and Spirits Shippers Association, Inc.
Wisconsin Agri-Business Association

CC: The Honorable Pete Buttigieg, Secretary, Department of Transportation
The Honorable Julie Su, Acting Secretary, Department of Labor
The Honorable Gina Raimondo, Secretary, Department of Commerce
The Honorable Tom Vilsack, Secretary, Department of Agriculture
The Honorable Lael Brainard, Director, National Economic Council
General Stephen Lyons, Supply Chain and Ports Envoy
Mr. Willie Adams, President, International Longshore and Warehouse Union
Mr. James McKenna, Chairman and CEO, Pacific Merchants Association

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