UPDATE: Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach Reopen

Posted on Apr 8

Article by: Rick Walker, Vice President, LCB, CCS

ILWU dockworkers returned to work on Friday night ending two days of port closures for the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach. The 2-day shutdown is related to the labor negotiations that have been going on for close to a year now. According to the L.A. Times, “The temporary closure has exacerbated fears about a logistics infrastructure that has never fully recalibrated since the COVID-19 pandemic delays and has shone a stark, national spotlight on the high-stakes labor negotiations playing out at the ports. The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), the industry group representing shippers at the negotiating table, on Friday night listed most terminals at the twin ports as working compared with previous dispatch summaries that indicated most terminals were idle Thursday night and most of Friday.

The ILWU Local 13 did issue a statement on Friday afternoon, stating that its members “are still hard at work and remain committed to moving the nation’s cargo, and that the worker shortfall occurred because several thousand members had attended a monthly meeting Thursday evening and were then observing the Good Friday holiday, as allowed under the contract.

As reported on Friday by the L.A. Times, “Although both sides have remained largely quiet about the status of the contract negotiations — appearing to adhere to an agreement laid out in a joint statement in February not to discuss the collective bargaining process in the media — the latest development underscored their significance.”

“This is quite clearly a wake-up call to the ports’ operators,” said Harley Shaiken, a professor emeritus at UC Berkeley who specializes in labor issues. “This process hasn’t just been slow, it’s been inching along with very high stakes in the balance.” Because their members can shut down ports all along the West Coast, Shaiken said, the longshore union has unequaled power. “This has already caught the nation’s attention,” he said, “and should add a sense of urgency to the negotiations.”

In a statement Friday, Port of Los Angeles officials said they were talking with both the union and the Pacific Maritime Assn., as well as local, state and federal officials, about returning to normal operations. “Resuming cargo operations at America’s busiest port complex is critical,” the statement read, “to maintaining confidence to our customers and supply chain stakeholders.”

The National Retail Federation also released a statement Friday saying the retailer trade group had expressed concerns about the closure to the White House and urged administration officials to step in to prevent further disruptions.

Let’s hope that last week’s actions will result in positive movement in the contract negotiations and that no further disruptions will occur.

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