For months, an on-going labor dispute between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), the group representing port employees, has slowed down cargo shipments going through West Coast ports. The slowdown—which PMA argues is deliberate on the part of ILWU—has dock warehouses piling up with spoiled food and products waiting for shipment. The labor dispute has the potential to sap billions of dollars from the U.S. economy, with consequences for years to come.
The nine-month labor dispute escalated this weekend when ports across the West Coast shutdown amid heightened tensions. PMA made the decision to shutdown the ports over the weekend because “it doesn’t want to pay overtime to workers who it says have been deliberately slowing down operations.” The ports re-opened for the workweek this morning.
The National Retail Federation has warned that a full-blown port shut down could cost the U.S. economy some $2 billion per day. There is some good news: the latest escalation comes “at a time when the holiday season has passed and many retailers aren’t as in dire need of shipments of merchandise.” As Shift reported, port slowdowns caused significant headaches to manufacturers during the Christmas season.
Jonathan Gold, vice president of supply chain and customs policy at the National Retail Federation, said of the dispute, “This could have serious impact on the economy. The escalating rhetoric, the threats, the dueling press releases and the inability to find common ground between the two sides are simply driving up the cost of products, jeopardizing American jobs and threatening the long-term viability of businesses large and small.”
USA Today reports that, last Wednesday, PMA said “it was making an “all-in” five-year contract offer that would boost wages by 3% a year, offer full health care benefits and a maximum $88,800 annual retirement benefit.” Notably, ILWU members are among the nation’s best-paid blue-collar workers. The longshoreman union member earns $147,000 a year.
ILWU is the same union whose members threatened the lives of Washington State grain inspectors if they dared cross picket lines at the Port of Vancouver. The state employees needed police escort due to the nature of death threats issued by the union. However, Jay Inslee chose to remove police protection from the inspector. Inslee also refused to allow United Grain Co. to pay for the protection of inspectors. Essentially, our green governor of Washington State took the side of the union.