West Coast Port Labor Strife Intensifies

Although negotiations on a West Coast port labor contract have extended well past the late-July settlement target date, the talks between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) remained calm and out of the media spotlight for several months. The last major update from the two parties came in late August, when ILWU and PMA announced they had reached a tentative agreement on terms for health benefits.

Over the past two weeks, however, communications related to the negotiations have taken a very negative turn. PMA has stated that increasing tensions related to the lack of a new labor contract are contributing to congestion at some West Coast ports – an allegation denied by ILWU. USMEF signed on to a letter to President Obama today in which a broad coalition of agricultural industry associations urged the White House to use all means at its disposal to help bring the contract negotiations to a conclusion, including assignment of a federal mediator.

On a related note, American Shipper reports that several ocean carriers have issued notices to shippers stating that they will implement congestion surcharges on Monday, Nov. 17. The surcharges announced so far apply only to containers arriving at West Coast ports, not to outbound shipments.

USMEF continues to monitor this situation carefully and will issue further updates as more information becomes available. If you have questions or want to provide additional input to USMEF, please email Paul Clayton or Dan Halstrom or call 303-623-6328.