On Feb. 11, the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) announced that vessel loading and unloading operations in West Coast ports would be suspended Feb. 12, 14, 15 and 16. Similar to the previous weekend’s suspension, yard, gate and rail operations will continue at the individual terminal operator’s discretion.
In a news release, PMA says its members have concluded that they cannot afford to pay longshore workers the weekend and holiday premiums that apply to these dates due to “severely diminished productivity.” However, the news release notes that terminal operators in Southern California will expand daytime vessel operations on non-holiday weekdays.
The following day, International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) President Robert McEllrath posted a video message to the ILWU membership, stating that the four-day suspension is an attempt by PMA to divide the union and “turn the public against us.”
The West Coast port labor impasse is finally receiving a heightened level of attention in Washington, D.C. On Feb. 10, the Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security conducted a hearing focused on the impact continued port congestion is having on various aspects of the U.S. economy.
The issue was also raised at a Feb. 11 hearing of the House Agriculture Committee, with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack expressing serious concerns about the impact on U.S. agriculture. On Feb. 12, a bipartisan group of lawmakers held a press conference urging a swift end to the dispute, detailing losses in export business for many U.S. industries. Video of the press conference is available online.