The ILWU are sending a message to West Coast terminals by taking targeted job actions that disrupt terminal operations. As negotiations enter their ninth month, the longshoremen are strategically limiting the level of disruption to avoid the attention of media and the Biden administration.
Some of the alleged job actions include:
- Fabricating safety issues with cargo-handling machines, which often shut down an individual terminal for 4 to 8 hours while machines are check out
- Dockworkers taking “unit breaks” together to disrupt cargo handling, instead of the normal practice of staggering coffee and lunch breaks
Negotiations for a new contract between West Coast dockworkers and the terminal operators began in May 2022, with the contract for 15,000 port workers in Washington, Oregon, and California officially expiring on July 1, 2022. Little progress has been made. Since then, West Coast ports have been bleeding cargo, with the West Coast share of US imports from Asia dropping from 61.5% to 58.8% from 2021 to 2022. Retailers continue to divert discretionary cargo away from the West Coast, waiting for a new labour contract to be finalized.
ILWU ‘sending message’ to West Coast terminals as contract talks drag on, Journal of Commerce, Jan 27, 2023. Accessed Jan 30, 2023.