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Disagreements Arise in West Coast Port Talks

Tensions are increasing in the ongoing contract discussions between dockworkers and their employers at West Coast ports, according to The Wall Street Journal (subscription).

What’s going on: “The Pacific Maritime Association, which represents ocean carriers and port employers, said Monday that dockworkers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach had stopped staggering work shifts during mealtimes starting last Wednesday.”

  • “The PMA said that has forced terminals to shut down every day for an hour in the afternoon and another hour at night, interruptions that have triggered ‘significant delays’ in cargo operations and long backups of trucks at terminal gates.”

The context: These exchanges mark the first instance of public disagreement since negotiations began in May 2022. The talks aim to hammer out a multiyear contract covering the 22,000-plus dockworkers at 29 ports from California to Washington.

  • The previous contract between the PMA and International Longshore and Warehouse Union expired on July 1, 2022. In the eight months since, port operations have proceeded with scant progress and under a constant threat of labor disruption.

Why it’s important: Continued uncertainty over a contract has made shippers shift cargo to East and Gulf Coast ports.

  • The additional burden has contributed to shipping supply chain backlogs and diminished throughput efficiency.
  • “Combined container imports at the neighboring ports dropped 38% last month from a year earlier, to their lowest level since March 2020,” according to the Journal.

The NAM’s take: “For nearly a year, the NAM has been urging the president, administration officials and federal policymakers to engage in productive leadership to help resolve this negotiation,” said NAM Director of Infrastructure Policy Ben Siegrist.

  • “Manufacturers have dealt with supply chain disruptions of every sort over the past three years, and the uncertainty in these negotiations adds burden to operational decisions. We will continue pressing for a resolution to these talks to eliminate further disruption and unreliability across U.S. maritime markets.”
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