Things are not going well with the contract negotiations between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA). The ILWU is resorting to slowdowns and walk offs at a time when congestion is already at a critical point for West Coast ports.
Last week, on November 3rd, the PMA said in a news release that the ILWU initiated orchestrated slowdowns at the Pacific Northwest ports of Seattle and Tacoma. The ILWU denied it, saying the PMA was lying and trying to blame the union for the congestion happening at the ports.
Three days later, on November 6th, the PMA put out another news release saying the ILWU spread their job action to the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, withholding hundreds of skilled workers from vital terminal jobs and thereby threatening holiday commerce and the U.S. economy.
To say that slowdowns and stoppages at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are threats to the U.S. economy is no exaggeration. 40% of the nation’s imports go through those Southern Californian ports and during previous shutdowns and threats of shutdowns, it was estimated that the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach being closed costs the U.S. economy a billion dollars a day.
The ILWU does not want the blame for that laid upon it.
In response to the November 6th PMA release, the ILWU released another article accusing the PMA of deception, saying the employers are blaming the workers for congestion at the ports when the actual cause is “chassis mismanagement and other supply chain failures.”
The ILWU said they are not responsible for the congestion at West Coast ports, providing this list of congestion causes:
- Chassis shortage and dislocation;
- Rail service delays, including a shortage of rail cars nationwide;
- The exodus of truck drivers who cannot make a living wage;
- Long truck turn times;
- Record retail import volumes (increases of 5.3 percent over 2013);
- Larger vessels discharging massive amounts of cargo;
- Container terminals pushed to storage capacities; and
- The peak shipping season (i.e., the August through October pre-holiday surge)
The ILWU is correct that the things on this list are causes of the major congestion at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. They also brought up the September 22nd fire that happened at the Port of Los Angeles as another source of delays.
Again, the ILWU is correct in saying the fire at the Port of Los Angeles added to the congestion experienced at the Southern Californian ports.
The ILWU being correct about all these causes of congestion does not mean they aren’t orchestrating slowdowns. In fact, it seems quite obvious the ILWU is making a bad situation worse.
Terminal 6 at the Port of Portland was shutdown on Friday, November 7th because all ILWU Local 8 labor had walked off the job by 2:45pm.
The labor union has been causing slowdowns there at Terminal 6 for quite some time. There have been court rulings against the ILWU purposefully slowing down the flow of import and export cargo at the Port of Portland and back in August we were already blogging on how the ILWU was taking advantage of the lack of a contract to hard-time the Port of Portland.
For a while, labor action at Terminal 6 at the Port of Portland seemed isolated, but now it seems orchestrated with ILWU’s action at the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.
By 2pm, also on Friday, November 7th, 4 terminals servicing 11 carriers at the Southern California ports were shutdown by an ILWU walkout.
Again on Friday, November 7th, it was announced that due to the ongoing labor situation in the Pacific Northwest, Terminal 18 up at the Port of Seattle will be only open for import delivery on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday–closed on Tuesday and Thursday. The terminal will not receive any export loads and will not receive or deliver any empties.
Labor hours have increased at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in attempts to alleviate the recent congestion in recent months, but now union workers are being withheld. When a strong effort is needed most from the ILWU, what we’re seeing is the opposite.