ILWU Members Stage West Coast Port Shutdown in Contract Dispute

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Members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) have failed to show up for their shifts at several marine terminals on the West Coast. This has forced some operations to be suspended while others are proceeding with reduced resources, which has severely impacted the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The Pacific Maritime Association, which represents employers, tweeted that the union’s actions are underway at several terminals including Oakland, Hueneme, Tacoma and Seattle. The union headquarters declined to comment, citing the agreed blackout on media statements. Local media outlets suggest that the union workers have been skipping shifts to protest against the contract negotiations that have dragged on for a year.

These disputes have emerged following the tentative agreement reached by both sides in April, where key issues were agreed upon by both parties. However, critical issues still remain to be resolved, particularly regarding wages and raises, which are still being negotiated. Interestingly, the union is fighting for better economic packages that recognise the heroic efforts and personal sacrifices the workers made during the pandemic. Meanwhile, the PMA warns that the critical issues remain to be resolved.

The Southern California port’s Local 13, which represents union workers at Los Angeles and Long Beach, has criticised foreign-owned ocean carriers and terminal operators who reap hundreds of billions of dollars in profit on the backs of union workers. They have expressed concerns that the rank-and-file membership is displeased with the ocean carriers and terminal operators’ position. The Local 13 said that the workforce’s requests are basic, which shall ensure that the workforce is treated with dignity and respect, which they have fought so hard to achieve. The cargo operations in the ports continue as longshore workers remain on the job; however, there is no indication of how many shifts the workers might skip.

Finally, media reports suggest that the West Coast ports have been struggling to regain market share and stabilise their losses. The cargo volumes have plummeted to pre-pandemic levels, exacerbating fears of disruptions as union contracts dragged on. Port officials have indicated that it is critical to have resolution on the contract to reverse the trend by shippers and carriers to divert volumes to the US Gulf Coast and East Coast ports.

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