Southern California ports shutdown highlights contract negotiations

Dock worker shortages at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach extended into a second day Friday, halting cargo traffic at the massive shipping complex while disrupting local economies and global supply chains.

The apparent temporary halt at the twin ports, a key entry point for imports from Asia, has heightened fears of a logistics infrastructure that may never be fully rebuilt after the COVID-19 pandemic delays. Labor negotiations are held at ports.

The union representing West Coast dockworkers and the industry group representing ocean shippers have been fighting for months. Negotiating a new contract that focuses, in part, on wages and the role of automation. The old contract, which covered more than 22,000 workers at 29 ports, expired on July 1.

The Pacific Maritime Auxiliary, an industry group representing shippers at the negotiating table, said in a statement on Friday The International Longshore and Warehouse Union has taken “concerted action to stop workers”.

“The majority of jobs for last night’s shift remain unfilled, including all jobs for cargo handling equipment operators required to load and unload cargo,” the statement said. “The workers who arrived were let go because they didn’t have a full complement of ILWU members to operate the terminals.”

ILWU Local said in a statement On Friday afternoon, its members “are still working hard and committed to moving the country’s cargo.” The labor shortage was caused by several thousand members attending the monthly meeting on Thursday evenings and observing the Good Friday holiday allowed under the agreement.

While the two sides have been largely silent on the status of contract negotiations — a contract appears to be in compliance. Joint report in February Do not discuss the collective bargaining process in the media – a recent development underscores their importance.

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“This is very clearly a wake-up call for operators of ports,” said Harley Shaigan, a professor emeritus at UC Berkeley who specializes in labor issues. “This process is not slow, it just comes with very high stakes in the balance.”

Because their members can shut down ports all over the West Coast, longshore unions have disproportionate power, especially over the size of the labor force.

“It has already caught the nation’s attention and should add a sense of urgency to the negotiations,” he said.

LA and Longshore ports Roughly 40% of US imports from Asia come in giant metal containers on ships that stretch the length of the Empire State Building. But cargo traffic has fallen sharply in recent months, allowing the combined ports of New York and New Jersey to seize No. 1 bragging rights. Angels.

The local downward trend is not just for officials at the twin ports, but for the 175,000 Southern California workers — who work at the ports and in related businesses — moving $469 billion worth of cargo annually, port data show. Jobs are at risk throughout the supply chain, including those employed by freight drivers, warehouse workers and logistics professionals.

“It is important that things return to normal as soon as possible,” he said Jack O’Connell, An international trade economist noted that local ports have lost significant business to their competitors on the East and Gulf coasts. U.S. retailers and manufacturers diverted inventory following a major downturn in San Pedro Bay that began 2020.

“Some of that business will never come back,” said O’Connell, who works at Beacon Economics. “The current shutdown will create a ripple effect that will affect countless jobs and industries associated with the movement of goods through the region.”

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“The economic impact of this shutdown will be felt,” he said.

According to James Stearns, an associate professor in the Department of Applied Economics at Oregon State University, contentious, drawn-out labor disputes have translated not only into temporarily altered business, but also into permanent changes.

For example, in 2016, bitter labor disputes at the Port of Portland eventually resulted in the port’s two container terminal operators leaving the port.

In a statement Friday, Port of Los Angeles officials said they are talking with the union and Pacific Maritime Auxiliary as well as local, state and federal officials about a return to normal operations.

“Resuming cargo operations at America’s busiest port complex is critical,” the statement said, “to maintain confidence for our customers and supply chain partners.”

The National Retail Federation issued a statement Friday, saying the retail trade group expressed concerns about the White House shutdown and urged administration officials to take action to prevent further disruptions.

Last month, the federation — along with dozens of other associations — sent a letter President Biden asked his administration to provide mediation services to both negotiating parties and to do everything in its power to ensure an agreement is reached as soon as possible.

The economic importance of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach is enough that U.S. presidents have previously recommended moving cargo again.

In 2002, President Bush closed 29 West Coast ports for 11 days to prevent employers from locking out West Coast longshoremen. In 2021, ahead of a holiday crisis in freight shipping, Biden helped broker a plan to expand operating hours at local ports, hoping to ease bottlenecks that have been mounting amid pandemic logjams.

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President O’Connell said he is also monitoring the current shutdown.

“A Democratic president doesn’t like these kinds of problems,” he said. “This is a labor issue and President Biden is going to try to make sure it doesn’t get out of hand.”

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