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The shipping ports of Los Angeles (top left) and Long Beach are seen from the window of a commercial aircraft over Long Beach, California, U.S. March 13, 2023. REUTERS/Chris Helgren

The shipping ports of Los Angeles (top left) and Long Beach are seen from the window of a commercial aircraft over Long Beach, California, U.S. March 13, 2023. REUTERS/Chris Helgren

Retailers Call on Biden Administration to Intervene in Strained West Coast Port Labor Talks

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 1186
June 5, 2023

The National Retail Federation, the world’s largest retail trade association, released a statement on Monday urging the Biden Administration to intervene in strained labor negotiations at West Coast ports. The request comes in response to reports of shutdowns over the weekend at the Ports of Oakland and Los Angeles after tensions between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) boiled over last week.

On Monday, at least one terminal at the Port of Long Beach, specifically Total Terminals International (TTI), was also closed.

“[Port of Long Beach] is open and operating today, although 2 of its 6 container terminals are closed for the day shift,” said Mario Cordero, Executive Director at the Port of Long Beach, said in a statement on Monday. “Operators of those terminals decided to close based on operational needs, and will reopen for the evening shift.

“All other Port container terminals are open, and we continue to monitor terminal activity.”

The Port of Los Angeles reported that all container terminals on Monday were open and operating “with appropriate staffing.”

The disruptions come as the ILWU and PMA have been unable to reach a new labor agreement after more than a year of negotiations.

“The United States ports, particularly those on the West Coast, play a critical role in the vitality of the American economy. Thousands of retailers and other businesses depend on smooth and efficient operations at the ports to deliver goods to consumers every day,” said the NRF’s Senior Vice President of Government Relations David French.

French further expressed concern about the impact of these additional disruptions as the holiday season approaches, stating that they would compel retailers and shipping partners to divert cargo away from West Coast ports until a new labor contract is established. He stressed the importance of all parties returning to the negotiating table and urged the administration to mediate the process to ensure a swift resolution without further disruptions.

The new collective bargaining agreement being negotiated covers over 22,000 longshore workers at 29 West Coast ports in the United States. Negotiations began on May 10, 2022, after the previous agreement expired on July 1, 2022. The ILWU and PMA continue to meet in San Francisco regularly for negotiations.

On Friday, the Pacific Maritime Association, representing ocean carriers and terminal operators, reported that West Coast dockworkers represented by the ILWU had “effectively shut down some terminals across every major container gateway on the US West Coast.”

The Southern California chapter of the ILWU said on Friday cargo operations at Los Angeles and Long Beach ports continue, but that members in Southern California had “taken it upon themselves to voice their displeasure with the ocean carriers’ and terminal operators’ position.”

Later on Friday, the ILWU issued a statement reiterating their dedication to negotiating a “fair and equitable” agreement. International President Willie Adams emphasized that any reports of a breakdown in negotiations were false.

“We are getting there but it’s important to understand that West Coast dockworkers kept the economy going during the pandemic and lost their lives doing so,” said Adams. “We aren’t going to settle for an economic package that doesn’t recognize the heroic efforts and personal sacrifices of the ILWU workforce that lifted the shipping industry to record profits.”

Today, the PMA issued a new statement accusing the ILWU of continuing to coordinate work actions that continue to disrupt operations at container terminals at the ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, and Seattle.

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