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Senators Urge ILWU, PMA to Reach Contract Agreement

Senators Urge ILWU, PMA to Reach Contract Agreement

Los Angeles, CA – Pressure is mounting on the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) to successfully conclude their negotiations to craft a labor contract covering major ports on the U.S. West Coast from Seattle to San Diego.

In a letter sent yesterday, the U.S. senators from California, Oregon, and Washington urged leaders from both the PMA and the ILWU “to continue working together toward a fair and amicable settlement on a proposed collective bargaining agreement.”

The letter, which was sent to ILWU President Robert McEllrath and PMA President and CEO James C. McKenna, was signed by Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer of California, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley of Oregon, and Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell of Washington.

“This collective bargaining agreement is important for the health, safety and economic well-being of the 13,600 longshore, clerk, and foreman workers at 29 ports from California to Washington, as well as for companies large and small, agriculture producers, ports, and international buyers around the world,” the senators wrote.

“We strongly urge both the PMA and the ILWU to continue negotiating in good faith to resolve the remaining issues and to swiftly move toward a final contract agreeable to both parties.”

Last week, a diverse coalition including retailers, manufacturers and farmers and other supply chain stakeholders led by the National Retail Federation (NRF) addressed a letter to the White House urging the government’s “immediate involvement” in the contract negotiations.

The coalition called on the Obama Administration “to become engaged in the contract negotiations before a disruption can occur,” and recommended the use of a federal mediator to forestall any threat of a management-directed lockout or labor-initiated strike.

“We believe immediate action is necessary and the federal government’s use of all of its available options would be helpful in heading off a shutdown and keeping the parties at the negotiating table,” the coalition letter said.

The NRF and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) issued an economic analysis in June that found a port shutdown would cost the U.S. economy approximately $2 billion a day.

The NRF-NAM analysis estimated that a 5-day stoppage at ports on the U.S. West Coast would reduce U.S. GDP by $1.9 billion a day. This would increase exponentially with a 20-day stoppage resulting in a loss of $2.5 billion a day.

11/13/2014

White House Engagement Urged in Port Dispute

Los Angeles, CA – Led by the National Retail Federation, a diverse coalition including retailers, manufacturers and farmers and other supply chain stakeholders has addressed a letter to the White House urging the government’s immediate involvement in the on-going contract negotiations between the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU).

Port terminal management represented by the PMA and the leadership of the ILWU have held talks since May, but have yet to approve a final agreement on a contract that expired in July, which covers dockworkers at 29 U.S. West Coast ports from Seattle to San Diego.

While the two parties have said they would remain at the negotiating table until a new deal is struck, recent labor activities – most recently at the Port of Seattle and Port of Tacoma – “have led to a noticeable uptick in rhetoric and tensions that is causing the nation’s importers and exporters anxiety and alarm,” the letter said.

“The sudden change in tone is alarming and suggests that a full shutdown of every West Coast port may be imminent,” it read. “The impact this would have on jobs, down-stream consumers, and the business operations of exporters, importers, retailers, transportation providers, manufacturers, and other stakeholders would be catastrophic.”

The coalition detailed what it asserts would be the impact of a port shutdown, including damaging the viability of the West Coast ports and the economic consequences of disrupting the supply chain.

The group called on the Obama Administration “to become engaged in the contract negotiations before a disruption can occur,” and recommended the use of a federal mediator to forestall any threat of a management-directed lockout or labor-initiated strike.

“We believe immediate action is necessary and the federal government’s use of all of its available options would be helpful in heading off a shutdown and keeping the parties at the negotiating table,” the letter said.

The NRF and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) issued an economic analysis in June that found a port shutdown would cost the U.S. economy approximately $2 billion a day.

The NRF-NAM analysis estimated that a 5-day stoppage at ports on the U.S. West Coast would reduce U.S. GDP by $1.9 billion a day. This would increase exponentially with a 20-day stoppage resulting in a loss of $2.5 billion a day.

The last prolonged port shutdown of the ports was the 10-day lockout in 2002 which took months to recover from and cost the U.S. economy close to an estimated $1 billion a day.

11/07/2014

No USWC Port Labor Contract Worries Retailers

Washington, DC – Import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to see a final surge and set a new monthly record in October as the holiday season approaches, according to the National Retail Foundation’s monthly Global Port Tracker report.

“Increasing congestion at the nation’s ports, as well as the ongoing West Coast labor negotiations, are ongoing concerns and retailers are making one last push to make sure they’re stocked up for the holidays,” said Jonathan Gold, the NRF’s vice president for Supply Chain and Customs Policy.

“Retailers are working hard to make sure customers can find what they’re looking for regardless of what happens at the ports.”

The contract between the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) affecting cargo movement at US West Coast (USWC) ports expired on July 1, prompting concerns among the nations’s retailers and others about potential disruptions that could affect back-to-school or holiday merchandise.

The Washington, DC-based NRF recently sent a letter to the heads of the PMA and the ILWU urging a speedy, successful conclusion to their on-going negotiations.

Dockworkers remain on the job as negotiations continue but the lack of a contract and operational issues “have led to record congestion” at ports from Seattle to San Diego, the industry group said.

“Finalizing a new labor contract is an absolutely critical component to working through the backlog of shipping containers now piling up at West Coast ports,” the letter read. “We are deeply troubled by the fact that no apparent progress has been made in the negotiations since August, when the PMA and ILWU announced a ‘tentative deal’ on health benefits.”

The NRF, the largest retail industry group in the world, chided both groups for their lack of transparency, saying that, “Whether intentional or not, the fact that neither the PMA nor ILWU has made any public progress report in more than a month is sending a very troublesome and disconcerting signal.”

Shippers, the NRF said, “look for certainty when making strategic long-term supply chain investments, or for placing transportation orders for discretionary cargo.”

The ongoing negotiations “and the degradation of operating efficiency, specifically at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, is making the region unattractive for future investment and will lead to a permanent shift of cargo,” the letter concluded.

Import volume at US ports covered by the Global Port Tracker report is expected to total 1.53 million containers this month, topping the 1.52 million monthly record set in August. Cargo volume has been well above average each month since spring as retailers have imported merchandise early in case of any disruption on the docks.

The 1.52 million TEUs (Twenty-Foot Equivalent Unit cargo containers) handled in August, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available, was up 1.5 percent from July and 2.1 percent from August 2013.

The import numbers come as NRF is forecasting 4.1 percent holiday season sales growth and 3.6 percent growth for all of 2014.

Global Port Tracker, which is produced for NRF by the consulting firm Hackett Associates, covers the ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the US West Coast; New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston, Savannah, Port Everglades and Miami on the US East Coast, and Houston on the US Gulf Coast.

10/10/2014