PMA statement on ILWU Actions at West Coast Ports

Contact: Steve Getzug (310) 633-9444
(213) 219-8990 (mobile)

PMA Statement on ILWU Actions
at the West Coast Ports

SAN FRANCISCO (July 12, 2008) -- The Pacific Maritime Association, whose 71 member companies include cargo carriers, terminal operators and stevedores on the West Coast, issued the following statement today:

In developments over the past 24 hours, an International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) local walked off the job at the Port of Tacoma for several hours Friday, while at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, workers continued taking coordinated unit breaks that have affected productivity.

These unilateral actions by the ILWU are of heightening concern to us because they are occurring and escalating at a sensitive time during negotiations on a new West Coast waterfront labor agreement.

At the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, workers continue to deviate from standard practices that allow for continuous operations by taking mid-shift breaks together, rather than on a staggered basis, as had been the case until yesterday. As a result, cargo activity is brought to a temporary halt during these periods. Although the time periods are brief, their cumulative impact can be measurable: productivity has fallen at some terminals by 10 percent to 15 percent.

Under our labor contract and longstanding practice, unit breaks can be taken only if the employers agree to them. That is not the case at these two ports. It is also worth noting that this is the kind of action that has been found to be an illegal work stoppage in the past, according to arbitration awards.

Because the previous waterfront contract expired July 1 and the union refused to extend it as negotiations progress, there are currently no means to arbitrate this matter nor police against any other potentially disruptive tactics, including the tactic of slowdowns.

At the Port of Tacoma, meanwhile, several ILWU members walked off the job for about four hours late Friday, bringing operations at one terminal to a halt. The walkout – apparently in protest over a lack of progress in negotiations on a local ports supplemental issue – led to delays, and resulted in a vessel sailing without 82 American export containers aboard.

PMA remains committed to reaching a labor agreement that is fair and reasonable to both sides and keeping the West Coast ports running smoothly as negotiations proceed. We look forward to a return to normal work-practice and a resumption of workplace processes consistent with the way the terminals run on a normal basis.

Keeping the ports open, productive and secure are critical to the American economy. The West Coast ports generate almost $1.3 trillion in domestic business impacts – representing 11 percent of total U.S. gross domestic product – and support more than 8 million direct and indirect U.S. jobs.

The contract covers wages, benefits and conditions of employment for the more than 26,000 ILWU members and identified casuals working at 29 West Coast ports in California, Oregon and Washington.

# # #