Two terminals at the Port of Long Beach and one at the Port of Los Angeles were shuttered during the day shifts on Monday, June 5, as talks between West Coast longshore workers and the Pacific Maritime Association appeared to sputter after more than a year.
Pacific Container Terminals at the Port of Long Beach has also canceled cargo operations for Tuesday’s first shift, according to a notice sent to the trucking community, citing no reason.
Fenix Marine Terminal closed its gates about mid-day Monday for the first shift, Port of L.A. spokesperson Phillip Sanfield said, adding it was unclear if they would open gates for the night shift.
“Our other terminals continue to operate and are staffed with labor,” Sanfield added.
The two Long Beach terminals, TTI at Pier J and LBCT at Pier E, were scheduled to reopen for evening shifts.
A written statement from Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero said the port remains operational.
“The Port of Long Beach is open and operating today, although two of its six container terminals are closed for the day shift,” he said. “Operators of those terminals made the decision to close based on operational needs, and will reopen for the evening shift.”
The union had no comment on Monday other than to point to its earlier statement issued Friday, which said “ILWU remains committee to negotiating a good agreement for ILWU workers.”
“PMA carriers and terminal operators made historic profits of $510 billion during the pandemic,” that statement added. “The ILWU is committed to bargaining a contract that is fair and equitable, including wages and benefits that reflect the dedication of the ILWU workforce and its contributions to the shipping industry’s success.”
Reports on Friday that talks had broken down, said ILWU International President Willie Adams, were false.
But in a statement issued late Monday, the PMA said work disruptions by the union had caused slowdowns at ports up and down the West Coast.
The ILWU “has continued to stage concerted and disruptive work actions,” the statement said, “that have slowed operations at key marine terminals at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and elsewhere on the West Coast, including the Ports of Oakland and Seattle.
“Union leaders are implementing many familiar disruption tactics from their job action playbook,” PMA added, “including refusing to dispatch workers to marine terminals, slowing operations, and making unfounded health and safety claims.”
Fenix Marine Services at the Port of L.A. said in a notice that there was “a disruption in our gate-and-yard operations” Monday morning and that the gate would remain closed for the remainder of the day shift.
The company had canceled work on Friday because of a similar issue that prevented drivers from accessing imports. The terminal initially planned to open normally on Monday, according to its website.
Labor shortages that effectively shut Oakland’s international terminals on Friday, meanwhile, ppeared to be resolved on Monday and the terminals “are operational,” Director of Communications Robert Bernardo said in an email.
Harbor Trucking Association CEO Matt Schrap said last-minute disruptions at the ports drives up costs for truckers and is challenging for the entire supply chain.
“We schedule appointments for container pick up days ahead of time,” he said in a statement. “If appointments get canceled or a gate closes, we need to react and redeploy.”
Calls from affected parties ramped up Monday for the two sides to find a solution.
“I strongly encourage the Pacific Maritime Association and International Longshore and Warehouse Union to continue their discussions and be willing to negotiate around the clock until an agreement is reached,” said Los Angeles Councilmember Tim McOsker, who represents the L.A. Port and surrounding communities.
“The women and men who work at our ports not only kept our country afloat during the pandemic, but risked their lives doing so,” McOsker added in a statement. “As they fight for fairer wages and working conditions, we need to ensure that the ILWU workers can continue to provide for their families.”
Still, the councilmember said, he was confident there’d be a fair resoultion.
The National Retail Federation, meanwhile, renewed calls on Monday for White House intervention in the contract talks.
“As we enter the peak shipping season for the holidays,” David French, NRF’s senior vice president of government relations, said in a statement, “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 labor contract is established.”
The Biden administration will continue monitoring the situation closely as negotiations continue, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Monday. But she declined to say whether the White House would intervene in the talks.
“We know negotiations are very hard,” though negotiators have overcome some major sticking points already, Jean-Pierre said. “We are going to encourage all parties to work in good faith toward a mutually beneficial resolution.”
The ILWU represents some 22,000 dockworkers at 29 ports on the West Coast. Negotiations have been ongoing for a new labor contract with the PMA since May 2022. The previous contract expired on July 1, 2022.
The breakthroughs Jean-Pierre mentioned came last summer and then earlier this year.
The union and PMA announced last summer that they had reached a tentative agreement on terms for health benefits. In February, both parties said they remained hopeful of reaching a deal “soon.”
And then in April, the union announced that a “tentative agreement” had been reached on some unspecified key issues.
But that same month, PMA said key issues remained unresolved.
Around that time, allegations surfaced that some terminal operations were being disrupted by job actions, which the union denied.
Still, it’s clear tensions remained elevated.
A signed contract is important, port officials have frequently said, to bring back business from shippers concerned about disruptions on the docks and in warehouses.
“As we continue to monitor terminal activity,” Mario Cordero, the executive director for the Port of Long Beach, said in a statement last week, “we urge the PMA and ILWU to continue negotiating in good faith toward a fair agreement.
“The national economy,” he added, “relies on an outcome that keeps goods moving through the San Pedro Bay ports, the most important gateway for trans-Pacific trade. We are optimistic our waterfront workforce and their employers will resolve their differences quickly.”
Bloomberg News contributed to this report.
Source: Orange County Register