The collective bargaining agreement between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and employers represented by the Pacific Maritime Association expired at 5 p.m. (PST) on Tuesday without reaching agreement on a new contract.
In a joint statement, the ILWU and PMA said “while there will be no contract extension, cargo will keep moving, and normal operations will continue at the ports until an agreement can be reached."
Despite the lack of an extension, terms and conditions under the current contract remain in place.
But without an extension, arbitration procedures no longer apply, and that gives both sides increased ability to take economic action such as a strike or slowdown by the union or lockout by management.
There is no indication at this time that either side wants to take such action or stop negotiations.
For months, both sides have indicated that talks were likely to extend into July, after the contract expired.
The ILWU-PMA joint statement stated “both sides understand the strategic importance of the ports to the local, regional and U.S. economies, and are mindful of the need to finalize a new coast-wide contract as soon as possible to ensure continuing confidence in the West Coast ports and avoid any disruption to the jobs and commerce they support.”
Little information about the substance of the negotiations has been forthcoming, and some observers believe it's unlikely talks will be completed before the July 4th weekend as both Independence Day and July 5 are observed by the union. July 5 is an ILWU holiday that commemorates “Bloody Thursday,” the day two men were shot and killed in San Francisco during a 1934 strike by longshoremen.
While the lack of information about the negotiations has been widely viewed as a good sign and the two sides are working to reach agreement on a new contract without public posturing, it has also frustrated some business leaders.
On Tuesday, in an op-ed published in the Los Angeles Daily News
, Gary L. Toebben, president and chief executive officer of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, called for lifting the “veil of secrecy” surrounding the talks.
"In Southern California, the information 'blackout' by PMA and ILWU only fuels the worries of employees, families, politicians, communities and businesses small and large, who together wonder if we’ll see a repeat of 2002’s billion-dollar-per-day coast-wide shut down,” he wrote.
“Given the critical importance of the ports in today’s local and regional economies, and for the sake of the millions of people who depend on the uninterrupted flow of goods in and out of America, we call upon the ILWU and PMA to lift the veil of secrecy so that everyone who relies on the ports has visibility into the progress of the talks. Such transparency is essential, especially given what is at stake now — and for years to come,” he added.