Ports Settle with ILWU

Jon LeSage
SETTLING THE DISPUTE between the ILWU and PMA that dragged on for over a year has been a relief for government officials, shipping companies and longshore workers on the west coast.

Longshore workers have finally reached agreement with the ports after more than a year of the contract being disputed. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) reached agreement August 31 on the labor contract that represents 22,000 workers in the West Coast ports.

The union, which represents longshore workers at 29 ports across the West Coast, voted 75% in favor to approve the tentative contract agreement that was first reached in June. They approved a new six-year agreement that will expire on July 1, 2028.

The labor negotiations had been contentious, with workers going without a contract for more than a year. PMA, which represents more than 70 businesses and ocean carriers, said “disruptive work actions” by the ILWU brought ground operations at marine terminals to a halt for a few days in June.

Longshore workers were able to see a good raise, along with rewards for the difficult job environment they faced during the COVID-19 crisis. One-time bonuses were included to reward the workers for helping the ports get the clogged supply chain back to normal.

The dragged-out negotiation period had been of concern to economists, shipping companies, and government officials. The Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles handle 40 percent of the nation’s cargo containers every year. Economists say the West Coast ports lost market share due to uncertainty during the sometimes contentious labor negotiations.

Good news for LB, LA, Biden

“This agreement will bolster the global competitiveness of the Port of Long Beach while expanding job opportunities for residents throughout Long Beach and the greater Los Angeles region. We value our port employees and our industry partners, and we are committed to working alongside the ILWU, PMA and our port leadership to make our Port the nation’s leading commercial gateway,” said Long Beach Mayor Rex Richardson and Port of Long Beach CEO Mario Cordero in a joint statement.

Similar comments were made by the mayor of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Harbor Commission president.

President Biden was also glad to see the dispute resolved. “And with this contract, dock workers at those 29 Pacific ports will get a pay benefit and working conditions that I believe they deserve. That includes a guaranteed 32 percent pay increase over a six-year period. It also includes a one-time bonus for the dockworkers’ exceptional efforts during the pandemic,” Biden said in remarks on Sept. 6.

“We all remember how the ports around the world were congested due to disruptions caused by the pandemic,” Biden said.

Biden also hailed a new agreement reached in August by the Teamsters and UPS, averting a potential strike. He also asked Congress the pass the PRO Act, which Biden said would protect workers’ right to organize.

Southern California is still rife with labor disputes. Long Beach’s Hotel Maya has been part of a broader worker strike, along with screenwriters and actors in Hollywood having their own strike for nearly five months.

Hotels in Los Angeles and Orange counties saw a wave of rolling strikes this summer. Hospitality worker union Unite Here Local 11 called for a boycott of some 60 hotels in these counties that hadn’t agreed to new labor contracts.

Fans of movies and TV series will have to wait for new shows to screen. The strike, which began May 2, will continue to drag out with a wide gap between writers and actors, and the major studios.

Jon LeSage is a resident of Long Beach and a veteran business media reporter and editor. You can reach him at jtlesage1@yahoo.com.

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