FILE PHOTO: The congested Port of Los Angeles is shown in San Pedro, California, U.S., September 29, 2021. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo/File Photo

West Coast Ports Will Get Labor Deal, Union Boss Says 

Bloomberg
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April 13, 2022

By Laura Curtis and Augusta Saraiva (Bloomberg) —

Dockworkers at the U.S.’s West Coast ports and their employers will likely reach an agreement when their current contract expires this summer, International Longshore and Warehouse Union International President Willie Adams said. 

“It takes a collaboration and we will get there. It’s like a marriage, right? There are bumps, there’s ups and downs, but you’ve got to enjoy the ride,” Adams said Tuesday of the union’s relationship with ocean carriers and terminal operators, represented by the Pacific Maritime Association. 

It’s just part of the collective bargaining process, he said. “If it was that bad, we wouldn’t be setting records. And billions and billions of dollars have been made,” Adams said in a pre-taped video (below) with Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka.  

Talks to hammer out a new labor contract for West Coast dockworkers are set to start May 12 ahead of the current contract expiration on July 1. Two years of record consumer spending have seen cargo loads hammer ports, particularly on the U.S. West Coast, with delays and congestion, and workers are seen as having additional leverage as carriers have seen record profits in a tight market. While wages and benefits are frequent sticking points, the employers’ right to automate could emerge as a particularly thorny issue.

The expiring contract covers about 22,000 West Coast dockworkers — represented by the ILWU — and their employers, ocean carriers and port operators, represented by the PMA.

Training programs

While Adams and ILWU Coast Committeeman Frank Ponce De Leon didn’t say specifically what their demands would be for the labor talks, they called on the PMA to be more involved in developing training programs through a new facility at the port. 

“I’m going to challenge PMA. They need to be fully invested in developing the training programs, not only for longshore, but for mechanics, but for our clerks and foremen as well,” Ponce De Leon said. 

“They’ve got to engage. We’re their workforce and you can’t say that you’re committed and use a lot of lingo and then you’re missing an action,” Adams said of the PMA’s involvement in labor-force training programs. 

Adams credited efforts by the White House to get parties to the negotiating table and resolve congestion and supply-chain issues at the ports brought on over the course of the pandemic. “The president was challenging everybody to put some skin in the game,” Adams said.

PMA Chief Executive Officer Jim McKenna gave 50-50 odds the talks will conclude smoothly and before July 1. It may be too optimistic to say there won’t be any disruption before understanding what the demands and obstacles are, but he said “we are certainly trying to accomplish that. There will not be a lack of trying.”

Some past disputes between the union and the PMA have proved crippling for shipments to the western seaboard, stoking fears of a repeat just as dockyards work to clear backlogs of goods brought on by pandemic disruptions and historic consumer demand for goods. 

Labor talks and trainin

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