Lockout Looms for West Coast Ports

At the week's press conference,  Jim McKenna, CEO of the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), said that the ports could shut down if the two sides don't come to some kind of agreement soon.

The PMA, made up of shipping lines and terminal operators, did the unusual thing of laying out exactly what offer is being made to the members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Unions.

He said the PMA proposed to raise wages by 3 percent a year. Currently full-time workers earn $147,000 a year. The PMA also offered to increase the maximum pension from $80,000 a year to $88,000 a year.

The healthcare and chassis part of the contract has already been ironed out giving workers a generous healthcare program where they pay no monthly contributions, do not pay for in-network doctors' visits and pay only $1 for prescriptions. The ILWU would continue to repair the chassis at the terminals.

But the ILWU still hasn't accepted the offers. "It is time to conclude these negotiations and get our ports working again," McKenna said in a telephone press conference.

He emphasized that work slowdowns beginning in late October by the union has resulted in a 40% to 60% drop in West Coast port activity and has made the cargo situation impossible. As of Wednesday, there were 20 cargo container vessels anchored beyond the breakwater that protects the Port of Long Beach and the Port of Los Angeles.

McKenna said, "Ultimately this will grind itself to a stop; this could happen in five to 10 days. If cargo stopped moving, the PMA would not hire any longshore workers and, in effect, cause a lockout.

2002 was the last time there was a lockout when a long-and-drawn-out contract negotiation grew acrimonious. The lockout, which started in September during peak shipping season, lasted 11 days. It was disastrous for the economy.
Eventually, President George W. Bush had to invoke the Taft-Hartley Act and get a court order to open the ports.

The two sides continue to meet at the bargaining table in San Francisco with a federal mediator. They need to get about five to seven issues resolved, which include the wage and pension portion of the contract. The new contract would be for five years and replace the previous six-year contract that expired on July 1. The contract covers nearly 20,000 workers at 29 West Coast ports.
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