US Ports – Labor Contracts 2017

Posted on Oct 26


Negotiations between The International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) and the United States Maritime Alliance (USMX) for an early labor contract extension for East and Gulf Coast port workers were broken off on Wednesday after ILA President Harold Daggett accused employers of seeking to use port automation to eliminate dockworker jobs, citing disagreement over the distinction between fully automated terminals and semi-automated terminals with automated features but operated by dockworkers.

While the ILA is prepared to avoid bargaining until the contract expires, local union officials will apparently continue negotiations on supplemental local issues that cover pensions, work rules, and other port-specific matters.

It is not clear if negotiations will be continued or not.



The International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) and the United States Maritime Alliance (USMX) plan to hold meetings in early December on a labor contract extension for East and Gulf Coast port workers that could exceed the recent agreement reached on the West Coast by supposedly eyeing a contract lasting until September 2024.

The current contract between the parties expires September 30, 2018, and both parties have explored a long-term extension for the last 2 years.

USEC/USGC ports have gained about 8% of containerized import traffic from Asia in the last 10 months, with their share of volume rising to 34.5%, and the ports worry that an uncertain labor situation might reverse this trend in favor of the USWC ports where a long-term agreement has been in place since August 2017.

One of the top issues remains the union’s opposition to port automation. Chassis maintenance and repairs are also high on the list of concerns for the union as more truckers have decided to purchase their own chassis instead of using pool chassis maintained by union employees.

Employers view increased productivity, especially in the ports of New York and New Jersey, as one of their top priorities.



67% of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union’s (ILWU) rank-and-file members voted in favor of the contract extension with the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), the union announced on 08/04/17.

The ILWU and PMA stated that the new agreement will raise wages, maintain health benefits, and increase pensions for 20,000 union members from 2019-2022, but did not publish exact numbers of the contract impact.

Ratification of the contract assures that no strikes will take place over the next 5 years in ports on the US West Coast.



The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) had the Pacific Maritime Association’s (PMA) contract extension offer in front of rank-and-file members for over a year, and after a lot of discussion within the union it now seems that ILWU members will approve a 3-year extension to the current contract ahead of its expiration in 2019, which would keep labor agreements in place until July 2022.

This unprecedented early agreement on the extension of the labor contract, the result of discussions that started back in 2015, is expected to be fully ratified soon after the ILWU members voted on it last month.

The agreement on the West Coast now puts pressure on the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILU) and the United States Maritime Alliance (USMA) to intensify their current discussions about the possible early extension of the labor contract for the East & Gulf Coast ports which is set to expire at the end of September 2018.

The early contract extension on the West Coast will bring security to shippers as it creates a stable and secure environment without the threat of massive port shut-downs during labor negotiations for the next 5 years.



Harold Daggett, the International Longshoreman’s Association president, strongly urged its members “not to engage in any work stoppage or any other violations of our current master contract.” The active master contract contains a no-strike clause to prevent work stoppages that could significantly impact trade.



In response to the ILA’s reported plans to shut down the ports along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts the employer group United States Maritime Alliance (USMX) today called the union’s threat “disturbing”.

The USMX claims that the master contract currently in force prohibits any unilateral work stoppage for any reason, and states it will enforce the contractual rights of its members to the fullest.

Further updates to follow when available.



The International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) reportedly plans to shut down the ports along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, announcing a march on Washington for next week to protest “job loss and the resulting negative impacts on America’s economy” by highlighting “hiring practices in some of the nation’s ports that purposely reduce the numbers of dockworkers, causing immeasurable damage to the nation’s economy.”

The union has not yet announced the date of the planned shutdown, or where exactly the march will originate.

We will monitor the situation and provide updates as they become available.



As already reported last year, labor unions and employers on both coasts plan to start the talks about new labor contracts earlier than usual, although the contracts are not set to expire before 09/30/2018 for the USEC/USGC ports and 07/01/2019 for the USWC ports.

The labor union International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) and the port employers bargaining group United States Maritime Alliance (USMX) will meet this week for a joint meeting in advance of actual negotiations.

These meetings are expected to bring some early information as to what the main negotiation topics will be in the “real” bargaining sessions.

Technology and ILA jurisdiction over chassis maintenance and repair are expected to be the hot topics for the discussions about a new contract.

Ports and carriers also see improved productivity, especially in the high-cost Port of New York and New Jersey complex, as an extremely important issue while the union remains opposed to fully automated terminals and also wants to preserve union leverage on local port issues.

The industry still looks at these early talks positively, hoping that they will help to avoid the same dreadful situations it faced in 2012/2013 when a federal mediator had to assist in reaching an agreement after almost a year of negotiations that did not lead to a result.

On the USWC, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) have also discussed early contract talks which are expected to begin around mid-year and include wages and benefits.