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West Coast Dockworkers Are Rejecting a Contract Extension

West Coast Dockworkers Are Rejecting a Contract Extension
November 30, 2021

The Pacific Maritime Association – which represents 70 ocean carriers and terminals operating at 29 West Coast ports – proposed reaching its current agreement with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union for another year through July 1, 2023, as it said on Nov. 16, in a letter to the ILWU seen by Bloomberg News. The union denoted about 15,000 dockworkers at the largest U.S. ports rejected an offer by employers to extend existing labor contracts for a year, setting the stage for intense negotiations.

According to the PMA president James McKenna, “There is already a perception among the trade community that negotiations are likely to result in some kind of disruption.” The extension is required to step forward to protect the commerce and the economy during the recovery period. Thus, when companies and workers discussed the contracts in 2014, West Coast ports faced nine months of slowdowns that ended only when the White House got involved. Initially, this was set to end in 2019; however, the contracts were extended for three more years after two-third of union members voted to prolong the period to avoid cargo disruptions in exchange for higher wages and pensions.

Therefore, around this time, the concessions amid record bottlenecks at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, with continuous supply chain restrictions contributing to delays, shortages of some goods, and quickening inflation. Dockworkers are also focused on the economy, union International President William Adams said in a letter to the employers. “It is especially ironic to ask labor to pass on collective bargaining” when shortages of workers outside of the ports, lack of truckers, and warehouse employees to earn enough wages in harsh working conditions. Workers have asked for an extension to that extension, but as Adam noted, “we have been waiting for seven years to address issues that are important to dockworkers.”

A one-year contract extension with the ILWU would be in the best interests of the national economy, considering the supply chain disruptions in pandemic conditions. Also, the automation and safety issues are the main methods of the discussions as the union has lost more than 20 members after the COVID-19. For years, automation has been a great contention between the two organizations as it has gained more spaced contracts in overtime. In early November, with Bloomberg, McKenna said the PMA had already submitted its new contract proposals, but negotiations are unlikely to start until the spring officially.


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