Containers unloaded at Port of Long Beach
Containers are unloaded at the Port of Long Beach. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union announced Thursday that it reached a tentative agreement with the Pacific Maritime Association on certain key issues. Still, negotiations remain ongoing until an agreement is reached.

The collective bargaining agreement that the ILWU and PMA are negotiating covers more than 22,000 longshore workers at 29 U.S. West Coast ports, including the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, two of the busiest ports in the nation. ILWU, the union representing longshore workers, has been negotiating with PMA, the industry representing shippers, since May 2022.

The parties are negotiating new contracts with priorities on wages and the role of automation. The parties previous agreement expired on July 1, 2022.

The union and the PMA previously announced in late July 2022 that they had reached a tentative agreement on terms for the maintenance of health benefits. The parties also issued a joint press release on February 2023 announcing that they were continuing to negotiate and remain hopeful of reaching a deal soon.

“The ILWU and PMA meet regularly in San Francisco to continue negotiating the collective bargaining agreement, and are committed to reaching an agreement,” the union said in a statement.

Both parties agreed not to disclose the terms of the tentative agreements as negotiations continue.

The negotiations are not without tension as PMA accused ILWU Local 13 of withholding labor that shut down terminals throughout the port of Los Angeles and Long Beach for two days. PMA further accused the union of delaying the standard dispatch process, which is jointly administered by PMA and ILWU, and refused to allow PMA’s participation in the labor dispatch process.

PMA said ILWU’s actions slowed the start of operations throughout the Southern California port complex and forced crucial cargo handling equipment to be taken out of operation at several key terminals.

“This latest work action comes about a month after ILWU Local 13 in Southern California stopped complying with a contract provision providing employers the right to assign staggered shifts during meal periods so cargo can continue to be received and delivered without interruption,” said the PMA in a statement.

However, ILWU Local 13 attributed the dockworker shortage to union members attending its monthly meeting and observing religious holidays.

“On the evening of Thursday, April 6, International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 13 held its monthly membership meeting as it it’s contractual right,” the statement read.

At the meeting, outgoing President Ramon Ponce de Leon swore in incoming President Gary Herrera, with several thousand union members in attendance.

“On Friday, union members who observe religious holidays took the opportunity to celebrate with their families,” the ILWU statement read. “Cargo operations are ongoing as longshore workers at the ports remain on the job.”

ILWU did not respond to immediate requests for comments regarding the accusation of delaying the standard dispatch process.

Port of Los Angeles officials stated they communicated with the ILWU and PMA, along with federal, state, and local officials to support a return to normal operations in the ports regarding the temporary San Pedro Bay Terminal closures.

–City News Service