Labor Secretary Intervenes in West Coast Port Negotiations

On Feb. 14, the White House announced that U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez was being sent to California to try to bring West Coast port labor contract negotiations to a conclusion. Perez’s first meetings with the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) took place on Tuesday, Feb. 17. Following these meetings, the Department of Labor issued the following statement:

Labor Secretary Tom Perez had positive and productive meetings with both parties of the West Coast Ports dispute, including leadership of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association. On behalf of President Obama, Secretary Perez made clear that the dispute has led to a very negative impact on the U.S. economy, and further delay risks tens of thousands of jobs and will cost American businesses hundreds of millions of dollars. While the parties have made tremendous progress, Secretary Perez stressed that it’s imperative the parties come to an immediate agreement to prevent further damage to our economy and further pain for American workers and their employers.

Negotiations resumed Thursday under Perez’s guidance, and rumors that PMA and ILWU were nearing completion of a tentative contract agreement gained media traction on Friday. As of press time, however, no formal announcements had been made. It is being widely reported that Perez told the parties that if they do not reach an agreement by the end of this week, he will move the negotiations from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. But this has not been confirmed by either PMA or ILWU, as Perez has requested that they operate under a media blackout.

USMEF asks members to please use caution if contacted by media regarding reports of a contract settlement or other matters related to the negotiations. For assistance with media requests, please email Joe Schuele or call him at 303-547-0030.

Meanwhile congestion continues to haunt major West Coast ports. January volume reports are now available for several major ports:

The Port of Oakland’s January export volume declined 26 percent year-over-year (containerized imports were down 39 percent in January, with total volume down 32 percent).

For the Port of Long Beach, containerized cargo volume was 18.8 percent lower and exports were down 19.6 percent.

January exports fared a bit better out of the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma, which saw combined container volumes fall 13 percent, continuing a trend that began in November. But containerized exports departing Seattle-Tacoma were down 7 percent, while imports fell 21 percent.

Full details were not available for the Port of Los Angeles, but American Shipper reported that January container volumes were down 29 percent from a year ago.