Retailers and manufacturers still stinging from the nine months of slowed activity at 29 West Coast ports that ended last February have called on dockworkers and their employers to start discussing a contract extension now.
“Agreeing early to a long-term contract will provide the stability and predictability our collective members need, while protecting against any self-inflicted harm to the broader U.S. economy. Maintaining arbitration procedures during negotiations will also give a measure of certainty to the cargo interests who are ultimately the ports’ customers,” said a letter sent Tuesday to Robert McEllrath, president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), and Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) Chairman and CEO James McKenna on behalf of a multi-industry group that included the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) and the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America (FRDA).
More than 100 importers, exporters, manufacturers, retailers and other supply chain stakeholders signed the letter, which urged an early start to negotiations “in order to lay the groundwork for a new contract, or contract extension, without major disruption.”
The last contract expired in July 2014. After a drawn-out dispute between PMA and ILWU that resulted in severe congestion and cargo delays at West Coast ports, including Los Angeles and Long Beach, the parties finally settled on a five-year labor agreement that’s due to end on June 30, 2019.
“The impact of cargo disruptions during the 2014 negotiations was widespread and affected many stakeholders at the ports and throughout the United States,” the letter stressed. “The costs were enormously high for many economic sectors. We cannot afford a repeat in 2019.”