West Coast Dockworkers Begin Union Negotiations

New York, NY, May 10, 2022-West Coast dockworkers and cargo handling companies are due to begin contract negotiations today, which will be integral to managing ongoing supply chain disruptions.

"Similar negotiations have been long and contentious in previous years, leading to extensive disruptions and delays in the flow of goods," The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reports, noting that the labor talks cover about 22,400 workers at 29 ports, "including the big Southern California facilities that make up the country’s busiest gateway for imported goods."

International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) president Willie Adams wrote in an open letter that the union seeks “a contract that honors, respects and protects good American jobs and U.S. importers and exporters.”

"Dockworkers are expected to demand higher wages, better benefits and limits to the automation of cargo-handling facilities," WSJ reports, adding, "Industry officials and observers say the union enters the negotiations in a stronger position than usual."

Previous contract negotiations, most recently in 2014, amounted to millions of dollars in lost revenues for manufacturers and retailers due to cargo delays.

Pacific Maritime Association CEO and president Jim McKenna will lead the labor talks on behalf of employers.

“If anything further disrupts the supply chain it will be devastating,” WSJ quotes McKenna as saying.

WSJ notes that the White House--"viewed as friendly to labor"--has the authority to intervene if talks stall, and "the Biden administration has focused on ports for more than a year, issuing executive orders and pushing logistics firms and shippers to change operations in a bid to ease congestion."

As the negotiations begin, more than 30 ships are waiting offshore for port space to unload, according to WSJ, and "a new rush of imports is due to hit the ports this summer at the start of the peak shipping season."