Dockworkers Shut Down, Slow Cargo Operations at West Coast Ports
Shipping executives say walkouts and slowdowns halted international trade at Oakland and hampered container handling from Southern California to Seattle.
The disruptions were triggered by a dispute between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), which represents terminal operators and shipping lines.
The ILWU accused the PMA of violating a contract provision that guarantees union members a minimum number of work hours per week.
The PMA denied the allegation and said the union was engaging in an illegal work stoppage to pressure the employers to agree to their demands.
The standoff affected several major ports, including Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma, causing delays and congestion for importers and exporters.
The U.S. Coast Guard intervened to mediate the dispute and urged both parties to resume normal operations as soon as possible.
The West Coast ports handle about 40% of U.S. containerized imports and exports, and are vital for the flow of goods across the Pacific.
The port disruptions added to the challenges faced by the global supply chain, which is already strained by capacity shortages, high freight rates and pandemic-related disruptions.
The last major labor dispute at the West Coast ports occurred in 2014-2015, when a contract negotiation between the ILWU and the PMA dragged on for nine months, causing severe congestion and losses for shippers and retailers.
The current contract between the ILWU and the PMA expires in July 2023, raising concerns about the possibility of another prolonged conflict.