2022 Union Negotiations at West Coast Ports

Summary

Union negotiations for 29 West Coast ports (affecting roughly 22,000 workers) began on May 10th. Here’s what we know about this year’s proceedings as well as possible ramifications later in the summer.

Negotiations are between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Authority (PMA), who have issued a joint statement stating their intent to reach a beneficial agreement: “Our goal is to work cooperatively to ensure worker safety, keep cargo flowing and share credible and timely information that is relevant to ILWU, dockworkers, PMA members, shippers, local communities, and other stakeholders who rely on West Coast ports.”

Read the full statement here.

Concern

Tensions are running high as shippers fear further disruption to an already strained supply chain. Historically, negotiations have lasted beyond their end date, and in some cases resulted in strikes.

Most notably, the LA/LGB ports shut down for 11 days in 2002, and 8 days in 2012.

Importers of everything from furniture to toys and U.S. exporters of agricultural goods and other products are bracing for potential fallout, not just because 40% of U.S. seaborne imports flow through the 29 ports affected by the talks, but also because past negotiations have led to severe disruptions.

WSJ, “Port Labor Talks Pose New Complication for Supply Chain

Representatives for both the ILWU and PMA have indicated the likelihood of negotiations lasting beyond the current contract (set to end July 1), but that this does not have to mean ceasing port operations (West Coast port labor talks start tomorrow. Here’s what’s at stake | Supply Chain Dive).

Next Steps for Importers

  • Communicate regularly with your vendors to stay informed on current and future delays
  • Consider a variety of alternate routings in the event of significant disruption
  • Keep in mind that shippers often choose similar alternate plans, and those routings may experience unusual costs and delays as a result (e.g. current shift from West to East Coast port congestion)
  • Explore options for alternate modes of transportation (e.g. air instead of ocean freight) in the event of significant disruption at all major ports

C J International will continue to monitor the situation, and provide updates as they become available. As always, please feel free to contact a C J representative for any questions you may have about your current or upcoming shipments — we’re happy to help!

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