Port terminals up and down the West Coast closed suddenly today as union workers walked off the job in a sign that contract negotiations with port operators had deteriorated again, following a similar closure in April.
More than 20,000 members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) have been working without a contract since July, 2022, as talks sputter slowly along with the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), which represents the interests of ocean carriers and terminal operators.
Some of those members had staged a similar work stoppage on April 6, shutting down operations at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach for several days.
In response to the latest move, industry group The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) said today’s action had triggered an even broader freeze, disrupting logistics flows at the ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, Seattle, Tacoma, and Oakland.
The PMA issued a similar statement, saying “Today, the ILWU is staging concerted and disruptive work actions that have effectively shut down operations at some marine terminals at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.” Also impacted were terminal operations at the Ports of Oakland, Tacoma, Seattle, and Hueneme, the group said.
Since those West Coast ports are a crucial link in the retail supply chain, any interruption in their operations has a ripple effect that impedes retailers’ ability to deliver for American consumers, RILA said.
“With supply chains that have grown increasingly flexible and resilient under extreme circumstances over the last several years, leading retailers will continue to take every measure to ensure customers do not feel the impact of this activity. But it is imperative that all parties convene to resolve today’s stoppage as soon as possible, and continue negotiations to secure a formal labor contract that restores certainty and stability at the West Coast ports,” RILA Vice President of Supply Chain Jessica Dankert said in a release. “If this work stoppage drags on and contract negotiations continue to falter, the Biden-Harris administration must step in and broker a deal.”