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Shipping companies accuse Longshore Workers Union of slowing down ports of L.A., Long Beach



For the last six months, the ILWU and the shipping association representing terminal operators and carriers have been negotiating a new labor contract to cover workers at 29 West Coast ports.
For the last six months, the ILWU and the shipping association representing terminal operators and carriers have been negotiating a new labor contract to cover workers at 29 West Coast ports.
Photo by John Harvey via Flickr Creative Commons

The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) is accusing the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) of contributing to the congestion at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. 

In a statement, the PMA said the ILWU is refusing to dispatch hundreds of workers qualified to move containers in terminal yards in the Southern California port complex:

On short notice, the Union informed the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) that starting Monday, November 3rd, it would not dispatch qualified ILWU members, most of whom have significant experience operating yard cranes in the terminal, placing cargo containers on trucks and rail cars for delivery to customers.

The ILWU would not address the specific allegations, but acknowledged some "worker frustration." ILWU spokesman Craig Merrilees repeated a response to similar allegations by the PMA earlier in the week, explaining that congestion at the key ports is the result of three factors: shortage of truck drivers, truck chassis, and rail car capacity to haul cargo away from the docks. "The employers have delayed dealing with these problems," Merrilees said.

The union and the association, which represents terminal operators and carriers, have been negotiating a new labor contract to cover longshore union workers at 29 West Coast ports for the last six months.  Together, they've vowed to avoid a work stoppage and keep bargaining until a deal is reached.  But this week's dueling statements indicate dissatisfaction with progress in negotiations. 

“The reluctance by employers to deal with those problems is akin to reluctance dealing with problems at the negotiating table,” Merrilees told KPCC. 

Meanwhile, retailers and others who depend on the ports are weighing in. A coalition led by the National Retail Federation sent a letter to President Barack Obama, urging him to get involved in the labor talks.