ILA & USMX Reach Contract Agreement for East & Gulf Coast Ports!
Do you feel that breeze? It’s either the winds of change or a collective sigh of relief from shippers as the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) and the United States Maritime Alliance (USMX) reached a dockworkers agreement that should bring stability to the East and Gulf Coast ports for the next several years.
The ILA and USMX announced the agreement yesterday (Wednesday, June 7th). A press release on ILA’s website states:
The International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) and United States Maritime Alliance (USMX) announced they reached tentative agreement on a six-year Master Contract, subject to ratification by ILA members at ports from Maine to Texas and by the USMX membership. The current USMX-ILA Contract expires on September 30, 2018.
As that September date drew closer and closer, shippers became more and more worried that the ILA and USMX would not be able to resolve their issues over automation and come together on a deal before the current contract expires.
The fear was if that were to happen, slowdowns, strikes, and/or lockouts might disrupt the flow of goods through the ports.
In 2014-2015, contentious contract negotiations between the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) and Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) led to slowdowns, mini-lockouts, and crippling congestion at the West Coast ports.
Just before that, in 2012-2013, the contentious contract negotiations were on the East and Gulf Coasts between the ILA and USMX when negotiations stretched well past contract expiration and the ILA announced plans to strike.
Traditionally, neither the ILA nor the ILWU would extend or agree to a new contract before the previous one expires. This policy preserved the dockworker unions’ most powerful weapons for leverage: strikes, threat of strikes, and slowdowns.
Unfortunately, all the drama at the ports whenever a dockworkers union contract was about to expire would end up being very costly for shippers and the U.S. economy.
Now we may have reached a new era at U.S. ports as both the ILWU and ILA have reached long-term contract agreements before expiration of the previous one.
In August of last year, the rank and file of the ILWU approved an agreement with PMA to extend the West Coast dockworkers contract from an expiration date in 2019 to 2022. This agreement put a bit of pressure on the ILA and USMX to get a deal done on the other side of the country.
The new Master Contract agreement on the East and Gulf Coast ports will still have to be approved by votes from the rank and file, so it’s still tentative; however, at this time there is no reason to believe that the agreement will be rejected.
From the press release on ILA’s website, the agreement has the full support of the ILA representation that helped negotiate it:
Some 200 ILA Wage Scale delegates unanimously approved the terms of the new agreement, following two-days of Master Contract negotiations in Delray Beach, Florida. The agreement culminates months of tough negotiations between the ILA and USMX. Both sides hailed the agreement that was reached months ahead of the expiration of the current pact.
The two sides encouraged local ILA and management groups to finalize local agreements by July 10, 2018, prior to full membership ratification votes by the ILA rank-and-file members and USMX.
Details about the contract itself have not yet been made available, but shippers should just be happy (if not ecstatic) that this deal got done prior to the previous contract’s expiration.