ILWU workers return to work after brief work stoppage
Several terminals in Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach were briefly closed Tuesday morning after members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union honored picket lines set up by Teamster protesters.
A spokesman for the Port of Los Angeles said APL and Evergreen terminals were briefly shut down at around 9 a.m. PDT when ILWU walked off the job in response to pickets from truckers striking three drayage companies, but then returned to work at around 11 a.m. PDT when a local arbitrator ruled it was not a bona fide picket line.
A spokesman for the Port of Long Beach said the Long Beach Container Terminal was also closed at about 9:50 when ILWU members honored a Teamster picket line, but that the longshoremen returned to work after being informed of the arbitrator's decision.
Justice for Port Truckers, part of the Teamsters Port Division, speakers said about 120 drivers are participating in what they are calling an “unfair labor practice strike” aimed at three companies — Green Fleet, Total Transportation Services, Inc., and Pacific 9 Transportation.
Alex Paz, one of the drivers, said workers are being misclassified as independent contracts instead of employees and are being fired for trying to collect wages and assert their rights.
The Teamster protesters have set up picket lines at the truck terminals of the three companies and have set up pickets to protest at the marine terminals in the two ports to protest if trucks from the three companies arrive.
The ILWU and PMA said Monday that they had agreed to extend their previous six-year contract for three days through 8 a.m. PDT on Friday while they suspended their negotiations on a new contract. They extension allows the ILWU to attend to other contract matters. By extending the contract for three days, they also put arbitration procedures back in place for three days.
That seemingly leaves open the possibility of further disruptions at the port later this week if the Teamster protest is not resolved, and the ILWU and PMA have not reached a contract agreement or have agreed to extend their contract past Friday morning so the arbitration provisions remain in place.
Meanwhile, the National Retail Federation said that "retailers are bringing holiday merchandise into the country at record levels to protect against potential supply chain disruptions," in the event of a disruption at West Coast Ports.
NRF said in the Global Port Tracker prepared for it by Hackett Associates showed "import volume at major U.S. container ports is expected to total 1.5 million containers this month. That’s the highest monthly volume in at least five years and follows a trend of unusually high import levels that began this spring as retailers worked to import merchandise ahead of any potential problems."
NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said, “We’re still hoping to get through this without any significant disruptions, but retailers aren’t taking any chances. Retailers have been bringing merchandise in early for months now and will do what it takes to make sure shelves are stocked for their customers regardless of what happens during the negotiations.”
The NRF has urged both labor and management to avoid any disruptions that could affect the flow of back-to-school or holiday merchandise.
"Retailers have a number of contingency plans in place, and Global Port Tracker numbers show that some importers have begun shifting cargo to East Coast ports: West Coast ports handled 59 percent of U.S. retail container cargo in May, down from 62 percent in January," the report said.
U.S. ports followed by Global Port Tracker handled 1.48 million TEU in May, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was up 3.7 percent from April and 6.6 percent from May 2013.
June was estimated at 1.46 million TEU, up 7.6 percent from the same month last year, and July is forecast at 1.5 million TEU, up 4.3 percent from last year. August is forecast at 1.51 million TEU, up 1.6 percent from last year; September at 1.45 million TEU, up 1 percent; October at 1.49 million TEU, up 3.8 percent; and November at 1.39 million TEU, up 3.6 percent.
While the West Coast contract situation is driving the surge in early imports, Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said the increases in volume also reflect an improving economy.
“The economy is on the upswing,” Hackett said. “There’s been a sharp drop in unemployment, consumer spending has seen solid growth over the last three months, and there’s a strong level of consumer confidence.”
Port Tracker measures container volumes at the U.S. ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle, Tacoma, New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston, Savannah, Port Everglades ,Miami and Houston.