Pressure mounts on White House as US West Coast strikes persist

Pressure mounts on White House as US West Coast strikes persist

With the precarity surrounding the ongoing disruptions at key US West Coast ports, major retailers and manufacturers have called upon the Biden administration to expedite labour contract negotiations.

Cargo operations for the first shift of 6 June have been cancelled at the Pacific Container Terminals, Port of Long Beach, as strikes throughout the West Coast enter their fifth day, reported Bloomberg.

The cancellation follows disruptions in terminal operations at the Port of Los Angeles on 5 June, while two terminals at the Port of Long Beach were closed on the same day, due to what Executive Director, Mario Cordero, described as “operational needs.”

While 22,000 dockworkers throughout the West Coast have been reportedly working without a contract since July, associations have voiced their concerns as terminal disruptions persist.  

With the holiday season on the horizon, the National Retail Federation (NRF) and National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) have implored the White House to finalise year-long negotiations between the employers’ Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and workers’ International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU).

“The United States ports, particularly those on the West Coast, play a critical role in the vitality of the American economy,” said David French, Senior Vice President of Government Relations for the NRF.

“Thousands of retailers and other businesses depend on smooth and efficient operations at the ports to deliver goods to consumers every day.

“We urge the administration to mediate to ensure the parties quickly finalise a new contract without additional disruptions,” French added.

“They have overcome some major sticking points already and are continuing to address [the] most difficult issues right now,” said Jean-Pierre.

According to Reuters, a source covering the issue reported that Labour Secretary, Julie Su, is actively engaging with both parties.

READ: Boxship backlog at Port of Long Beach, Port of Los Angeles finally ends

Much of the contention is rooted in a lack of recognition felt among dockworkers for their contribution during the pandemic which they believe was significant in achieving the record profits experienced throughout West Coast ports.

Shipping companies who saw these surges in profits had either full or part ownership of several West Coast terminals, Reuters reported.

The PMA, meanwhile, reprimanded the ILWU for the latest disruptions, alleging that: “Union leaders are implementing many familiar disruption tactics from their job action playbook, including refusing to dispatch workers to marine terminals, slowing operations, and making unfounded health and safety claims.”

READ: US railroad strike threatens to inflict pain on staggering economy

Periodic strikes throughout the past year have plagued West Coast ports, stalling operations at the US’s biggest import hub.

This has subsequently led to importers permanently rerouting shipments to the East Coast, highlighting an operational power shift across the US.  

The seemingly indelible impact of this shift led to the Port of New York and New Jersey finishing 2022 with a record high container volume, handling almost 9.5 million TEU. This reflected a 27 per cent increase from pre-pandemic annual totals

“As we enter the peak shipping season for the holidays, these additional disruptions will force retailers and other important shipping partners to continue to shift cargo away from the West Coast ports until a new labour contract is established,” said French.

The absence of a new labour contract comes in spite of the fact that Gene Seroka, Chief Executive of the Port of Los Angeles, predicted last December during a CNBC interview that a deal would have been reached by Spring of 2023.

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