Pacific Maritime Association, ILWU Address Current State of Contract Negotiations

Cargo containers are ready for transportation at the Port of Los Angeles October 27, 2014.  REUTERS/Bob Riha Jr.
Cargo containers are ready for transportation at the Port of Los Angeles October 27, 2014. REUTERS/Bob Riha Jr.

U.S. West Coast ports have been hit with unprecedented congestion over the past several months in part because of the stalled contract negations the Pacific Maritime Association, representing employers at 29 West Coast ports, and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, representing some 20,000 dockworkers.  The previous six-year labor pact between the two expired on July 1 and since that time, the two sides have been battling each other over who exactly is causing the gridlock. A federal mediator joined the negotiations in early January, with both sides said to be close to a deal, but new details revealed Wednesday indicated that the two sides hit a snag.

Here are the two public statements issued Wednesday from both sides addressing the current state of the contract negotiations.

Pacific Maritime Association Statement:

International Longshore and Warehouse Union Statement:

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – The ILWU is trying to keep dock employers at the negotiating table to finish an agreement that is “extremely close.”

“We’re this close,” said ILWU President Robert McEllrath, who held up two fingers in a gesture indicating how close the parties are to reaching an agreement.

“We’ve dropped almost all of our remaining issues to help get this settled – and the few issues that remain can be easily resolved.”

The ILWU pledged to keep the ports open and keep cargo flowing, despite the massive, employer-caused congestion crisis that has delayed shipping for most of 2014.

This is the second time in recent memory that the employers have threatened to close ports at the final stages of negotiations. The union has not engaged in a port strike over the coast longshore contract since 1971, 44 years ago.

“Closing the ports at this point would be reckless and irresponsible,” said McEllrath. The ILWU urged the Federal Mediator to keep both parties at the talks until the nearly-finished agreement is concluded.

If the PMA closes the ports, “the public will suffer and corporate greed will prevail,” said McEllrath, who noted that the major powers on the employer side are multi-national corporations who are foreign-owned.

“These foreign-owned companies make billions of dollars and pay their executives millions to do their bidding.”

The ILWU Longshore Division represents 20,000 dockworkers at 29 west coast ports.