West Coast port labor talks stalled due to union dispute

Labor talks between West Coast dockworkers and their employers have stalled due to a dispute between two unions over who maintains equipment at a cargo-handling terminal at the Port of Seattle, according to reports. people close to the talks.

The Labor battle complicates talks that span 29 West Coast ports and poses the threat of disruptions to key U.S. gateways for trans-Pacific trade, including the nation’s busiest container port complex in Los Angeles and Long Beach, California.

Representatives of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents dockworkers, and the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents terminal operators and shipping companies, declined to comment, citing an agreement between the two sides not to discuss talks publicly.

Both sides said negotiations are continuing. “Any rumors about what is happening at the negotiating table are second, third or fourth hand,” said ILWU spokesperson Jennifer Sargent Bokaie.

The ILWU, which represents more than 22,000 West Coast dockworkers, wants its next labor contract to ensure that a cargo-handling terminal in Seattle uses ILWU workers to maintain and repair equipment.

The Pacific Maritime Association says it cannot award this work to the ILWU because the National Labor Relations Board ruled in 2020 that the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers has jurisdiction over the terminal.

People familiar with the talks say the union will not move on to other important issues, such as wages and the right for employers to bring more automation to the docks, until the disagreement of Seattle be resolved.

Retailers, manufacturers and agricultural exporters who rely on the West Coast to connect to Asia are watching the talks closely, and some importers are diverting cargo to US Gulf Coast and East Coast ports. to avoid possible disturbances. The talks are also being watched by Biden administration officials who are trying to ease supply chain congestion and cut shipping rates as they try to reduce inflation.

The dockers have been working without a contract since the last multi-year deal expired on July 1 and the sides could not agree on a contract extension.

Past negotiations have been highly contentious, with disagreements between dockworkers and their employers during talks in 2002 and 2014 leading to shipping delays that lasted for months. President Biden and senior administration officials have met with labor and shipping industry representatives in recent months to convey their desire for the talks to go smoothly.

The ILWU and the PMA began talks May 10 in San Francisco. They released a joint statement on July 26 saying they had reached an agreement in principle on the health benefits.

This still left the two sides to find consensus on major issues, including wages and automation.

More logistic report

Write to Paul Berger at Paul.Berger@wsj.com

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