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Further Progress in West Coast Ports Negotiations

ILWU and PMA negotiators tentatively reached an agreement on worker requirements for nonautomated terminals at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach on Wednesday, surmounting another of the remaining roadblocks to a negotiated contract, according to the Journal of Commerce (subscription).

What’s going on: “Three sources told the Journal of Commerce that the deal between Local 13 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), which represents terminal operators and shipping lines, was reached Tuesday and involves manning requirements for cargo-handling equipment at conventional container terminals in Los Angeles–Long Beach.”

  • Negotiations between the ILWU and the PMA over a multiyear work contract began last May, but ultimate agreement to a long-term deal has remained elusive and cargo has shifted increasingly to Gulf and East Coast ports.
  • The NAM has consistently urged the White House to step in and commissioned an economic impact study as the negotiations began nearly 12 months ago. That review found that even a brief and selective port shutdown could result in nearly $500 million of lost economic activity per day during a work stoppage.

Why it’s important: “ILWU Local 13 for more than a week in mid-April engaged in job actions at Los Angeles and Long Beach to call attention to its proposals and bring management to the negotiating table. Those actions included the ‘red tagging’ of equipment that triggered time-consuming safety checks and the late dispatching of dockworkers to the terminals each day. Those activities ceased leading up to the beginning of local talks in Los Angeles on April 24.”

  • According to the article, sources close to the talks report increased optimism for a tentative long-term agreement in the coming weeks.

What’s next: “When a tentative coastwide agreement is reached, ILWU locals up and down the West Coast will wrap up discussions on remaining issues at their ports. Then the entire coastwide agreement will be distributed to the ILWU membership.”

  • “ILWU local officers will discuss the contract with their rank and file before they vote on it. Sources say that process will take several weeks, with a ratification vote possible in mid-summer assuming a deal is struck soon.”
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