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Labor Negotiations Underway for West Coast Port Workers

Ongoing labor negotiations have far-ranging implications for some of America’s busiest ports and the manufacturers that depend on them, according to Bloomberg.

Who’s involved: The International Longshore and Warehouse Union represents marine clerks, foremen and longshore workers employed by 29 West Coast ports. The Pacific Maritime Association represents about 70 employers including some of the biggest container carriers and terminal operators on the West Coast.

Why it matters: The ILWU contracts are scheduled to expire on July 1, and in November, the port workers declined an offer to extend the current agreement for another year.

  • The more than 22,000 workers represented by the ILWU are an integral part of the Los Angeles and Long Beach port system, which handles about 42% of all U.S. containerized trade with East Asia.
  • The talks are taking place amid high levels of port congestion throughout the U.S. If the two sides cannot come to an agreement, a worker’s strike could exacerbate preexisting logistical shipping challenges.

When, not if: The ILWU and PMA both say they will reach a deal and are committed to doing so without disrupting port operations. It is unlikely, however, that the deal will be completed by July 1. It is more likely that the two sides agree to extend current contracts to allow for extra time to negotiate. 

  • “It doesn’t matter that the contract isn’t done by July 1; that’s not the litmus test,” said PMA President Jim McKenna. “The litmus test is the contract is done, and there’s been no disruption. I don’t care if it’s done three months after it expires.”

Our move: The NAM has been deeply involved in this issue and is communicating with federal policymakers to urge swift negotiations. For more information, please contact NAM Vice President of Infrastructure, Innovation and Human Resources Robyn Boerstling.

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