Have the First Steps Toward an ILWU Lockout at Ports Happened?

 In ILWU Negotiations, PMA, shipping
Close to ILWU LockoutIn 2002 the Pacific Maritime Association locked the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) out of 29 West Coast ports when neither side would budge in contract negotiations.

The lockout cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars.

Some estimated the loss to be at or above $2 billion a day while others figured the cost at right around $1 billion a day. Either way, it was a major blow to the country that required President George H. W. Bush to invoke the Taft-Hartley law for an injunction to get the union back to work and the ports open again.

Have we seen the first step toward another lockout here in 2015?

On Tuesday (January 13th) at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the PMA had union crews stop loading and unloading cargo ships at night, according to an article from Los Angeles Daily News.

Apparently the PMA is stopping ILWU crews from loading and unloading ships at night all up and down the coast as the article went on to say:

… [The PMA] said their members will not be assigning any vessel gangs or crews to move cargo off of and onto ships at night, to focus on reducing an ever-expanding pile of cargo containers they contend is the result of an intentional work slowdown tactic by the dockworkers union.

Congestion at the West Coast ports, especially the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach is extremely bad. At the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, there are stacks and stacks of shipping containers upon shipping containers.

I guess you could make sense of the PMA’s argument that the growing piles of shipping containers need to be reduced and burying shipping containers even deeper by unloading ships at night is counterproductive relieving the problem.

However, this could be a move to reduce union jobs and put pressure on the ILWU during negotiations the same way the ILWU can put pressure on the PMA by staging slowdowns.

An article from the San Bernardino Sun shared the union’s perspective, which said “management’s decision to suspend night vessel shifts has displaced 1,000 workers. Of the 1,100 workers who reported to the hiring hall, only 226 were assigned, said Adan Ortega, spokesman for ILWU Local 13.”

If this is a move to take work away from union members, is it the first step toward a lockout?

Apparently, some of the employers in the PMA are for a lockout.

Bill Mongelluzzo wrote in the Journal of Commerce (JOC), “Conditions are so bad that some employers say the only way to stop the bleeding is to lock out the union as they did in the 2002 contract negotiations.”

Thankfully, most of the employers in the PMA do not agree. Mongelluzzo went on to write, “However, those employers are still outnumbered by others who say that everyone will lose in a lockout, and a war of attrition is the better option.”

Unfortunately, in a war of attrition between the ILWU and PMA where the ILWU organizes slowdowns and the PMA starts reducing man-hours (which have actually been increased more than the growth of shipped cargo during negotiations), carriers, shippers, and the economy get caught in the crossfires.

There was a pledge made by the PMA and ILWU to keep cargo moving at the docks. But then eight months of negotiations failed to bring about a new contract between the employers and dockworkers.

In what is now the ninth month of negotiations, there is finally federal mediation but tensions between the ILWU and PMA couldn’t be higher.

From the beginning, retailers and shippers feared a strike or lockout might result if the PMA and ILWU were unable to successfully negotiate a contract by the July 1st expiration of the previous contract.

There has been no strike, but union walkoffs and accusations of ILWU organized slowdowns have been all over the coverage of these talks. The ILWU has refused extend the previous contract during negotiations, leaving the PMA with no arbitration process to fight alleged slowdowns as well as leaving room for the ILWU to strike.

There has been no lockout, but now we’re seeing the PMA remove many union night shifts after complaining about union slowdowns for months. The lockout in 2002 was in retaliation of alleged ILWU slowdowns when the union also would not agree to a contract extension that would give arbitration options.

In the midst of the 2002 lockout, CNN reported the following:

Management said it will not end the lockout until the union agrees to a new contract or agrees to reinstitute the expired contract so that management would have an arbitration process to combat alleged work slowdowns.

How close are we to seeing these words printed again 2015?

How ready is the Obama White House to enact Taft-Hartley if a lockout does occur?


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Source: Shipping

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