As West Coast ports and the truckers who serve them prepare to enter their busiest season of the year, the threat of a strike looms large.
Talks broke down over the weekend between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Assn.
A strike or slowdown at the ports would adversely affect container truckers, who are not unionized, especially if it happens during the upcoming busy time when holiday season merchandise enters the U.S.
The PMA rejected the latest proposal from the longshoreman, accusing the union of repackaging proposals they rejected at the start of negotiations several months ago. Sunday, the ILWU walked out on contract talks. The PMA says the two sides had reached an agreement on the health benefits package, but the two sides cannot come to an agreement over new technology the PMA says is needed and the ILWU says will cost jobs.
The PMA says it will not tolerate work slowdowns. In previous contract negotiations in 1999 and 1996, longshoremen engaged in work slowdowns to pressure employers to accept the union’s demands. This year, the two sides had agreed to extend the previous contract, which expired July 1, on a day-to-day basis. But the union Sunday said it would no longer extend the contract. Because the union has not yet taken a strike vote, it cannot walk out – but the port terminals are threatening a lockout if the union resorts to slowdowns.
Nevertheless, traffic continued to flow through the ports Tuesday. The pMA said it had contacted the union in a bid to restart negotiations.