U.S. West Coast Port Negotiations Face Uncertain Future as Disruptions Persist

coracle News

Longshore workers from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 13 have been conducting job actions at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach for the past week. The ILWU has been “red-tagging” cargo-handling equipment at the ports’ three automated terminals, which designates the equipment as unsafe, although it was fine, and forces an inspection. These tactics have forced the terminals to halt operations for an eight-hour shift or an entire day, disrupting port activities.

With the May 10 anniversary of the start of negotiations fast approaching, the events of the past week indicate that the ILWU and employers are far from reaching a new labor contract. The negotiations have been ongoing for almost a year, and there seems to be no resolution in sight. The ILWU has been conducting job actions to push for their demands, which include better wages and working conditions, while employers argue that they need to remain competitive.

Peter Tirshwell, Vice President at the Journal of Commerce, says there are several reasons why the talks could drag on, such as the low political liability facing the Biden administration, the union’s apparent lack of concern for West Coast market share, the carriers’ decreased profitability, and the unresolved “T5” jurisdictional issue.

Meanwhile, some shippers are requesting more non-West Coast routings due to uncertainty surrounding the negotiations and a premium on service reliability following pandemic disruptions.

1. LA-LB dockworkers target automated terminals as job actions continue, Journal of Commerce by S&P Global, Apr 14, 2023. Accessed Apr 17, 2023.
2. LinkedIn Post by Peter Tirshwell (Vice President, Journal of Commerce, S&P Global Market Intelligence), April 15, 2023. Accessed Apr 17, 2023.