Ports & Terminals

Biden administration sees no reason to intervene in West Coast dockworker dispute

The Biden Administration says it sees no reason to intervene in the West Coast dockworkers’ dispute despite appeals from a growing number of shippers urging the Administration to mediate the dispute between the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) so as to bring the yearlong disruption of port operations to an end.

Why The Biden Administration Won’t Intervene

On June 7th, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre explained why the Biden Administration has no plans to intervene: “So when it comes to the West (Coast) ports, I can say that the President respects the collective bargaining process as the best way for workers and employers to reach mutually beneficial solutions, which he — we have said before. And Acting (Labor) Secretary Su and others in the administration are regularly engaging with the parties, encouraging them to stay at the negotiating table and finish their work.
But the path forward is for the port workers and their employers to resolve the negotiations so that workers get the wages, benefits, and quality of life that they so deserve. And so that’s what we’re going to continue to call for: asking both parties to come to the table so this can be — so this can be dealt with.”

On Friday, June 9th, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Suzanne Clark sent a letter to President Biden urging “the administration to intervene immediately in the West Coast port negotiations by appointing an independent mediator to help the two parties reach an agreement that prevents significant economic harm to U.S. families and the economy.”

Other organizations who have urged the Biden Administration to intervene include:

National Association of Manufacturers (June 7)

National Retail Federation (June 5)

Retail Industry Leaders Association (June 2)

PMA Cites Port Disruptions

While the Administration insists that the collective bargaining process continue, the PMA cited renewed disruptions at West Coast ports.

On June 12th, the PMA accused the International Longshore and Warehouse Union of having staged disruptive work actions targeting the West Coast’s largest ports that “have either slowed operations or shut them down altogether, impeding the supply chain and leaving ships and the American exports they carry sitting idle at the docks.”

The ILWU denies this and says it continues to negotiate in good faith.

The PMA says the “Union’s actions have included delaying the daily standard dispatch process; withholding specialized workers, such as cargo-handling equipment operators or lashers; making unfounded health and safety claims; deliberately conducting inspections that are not routine, not scheduled, and done in a way that disrupts terminal operations; and improperly coordinating lunch and unit breaks to drain all labor from terminals at the same time.”

The PMA notes in its June 12th update the impact to the Ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Seattle: “Yesterday at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the ILWU resumed its past practice of withholding lashers from terminals at the nation’s largest port complex, resulting in vessels having to miss their scheduled departures.

The Union also did not fill orders for labor from several terminal operators despite the fact they were placed properly and on time.

At the Port of Seattle, ILWU continued to stage disruptive work actions that led to containerized terminal operations coming to a halt. In some cases, the Union slowed down operations, resulting in longshore workers being sent home. On another shift, the Union failed to dispatch longshore workers which effectively shut down the port.”

ILWU Says It Continues To Bargain In Good Faith

On Saturday, June 10th the ILWU and its President Willie Adams denied the PMA’s allegations: “The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) remains committed to bargaining a contract that is fair and equitable and represents the hard work and contributions of its members toward the ongoing success of the multi-billion-dollar shipping industry.

The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) continues using the media to leverage one-sided information in an attempt to influence the process.

“Despite what you are hearing from PMA, West Coast ports are open as we continue to work under our expired collective bargaining agreement,” stated International President Willie Adams.

The collective bargaining agreement that the ILWU and PMA are negotiating covers more than 22,000 longshore workers at 29 U.S. West Coast ports. The previous agreement expired on July 1, 2022, and talks began on May 10, 2022.

Stas Margaronis
Stas Margaronis


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