Southern California’s ports garnered a lot of attention last year with record-breaking congestion and help from the US president to move to 24/7 operations. Although the congestion is slowly being cleared, there is labour uncertainty looming with the contracts of 15,000 port workers expiring on July 1, 2022. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) represents employees at 29 West Coast Ports in the states of Washington, Oregon, and California.
The last time an ILWU contract expired in July 2014, port operations slowed drastically as negotiations dragged into 2015, although no formal strike was declared. The main sticking point during the upcoming negotiations is expected to be port automation. Many importers and forwarders are starting to divert their cargo through Canadian ports as part of a risk mitigation strategy, which will increase the cost of ocean freight to Canada and cross-border trucking rates.
1. West Coast Ports, Dockworkers Face 2022 Clash Amid Port Snarls, Bloomberg, November 1, 2021. Accessed Jan 24, 2022.
2. Commodities 2022: USWC longshore labor negotiations could further disrupt US freight markets, S&P Global Platts, Dec 15, 2021. Accessed Jan 24. 2022.