Work resumes at LA/LB ports, but contract settlement stays out of reach

There’s no labor agreement in sight for West Coast ports. And recently there have been short unannounced work stoppages by the unions.

I’m thinking these work stoppages are trial balloons. The major union at the ports, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), may be trying to gauge the impact of a stoppage on the ports. We all know that the ocean shipping market is weak, and in addition quite a bit of container traffic has moved away from the West Coast ports, to the East Coast. So volumes are down at the West Coast ports.

It’s possible that cargo volumes are so light that a full strike will jeopardize the ports’ business. A sizeable reduction in container traffic would reduce the demand for longshoremen and union workers. They don’t want to kill the golden goose. A mini-trial would tell them whether the ports would be severely hurt by a strike. Otherwise the ports might say “Go ahead and strike!”

I think that is why the US government is loath to intervene yet. Continuing to negotiate might be the best way to get an outcome everyone can live with.

Ian Putzger, Americas Correspondent 11/04/2023

Work resumes at LA/LB ports, but contract settlement stays out of reach – The Loadstar

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