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RILA Applauds ‘Progress’ on West Coast Labor Talks

A retail trade group remains upbeat on its outlook for the outcome on West Coast labor contract talks, even with negotiations now past the July 1 contract expiration.

The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) in Washington D.C. applauded what it described as progress on negotiations.

“The industry is grateful that the ports have remained up and running throughout the negotiation process and we’re optimistic that all parties can reach an agreement soon to prevent any slowdowns or disruptions in the long term,” RILA vice president of supply chain Jess Dankert said Tuesday.

Dankert’s statement follows a trade report from last week citing anonymous sources that a deal is likely to be reached as early as next month.

“With the busy back-to-school and holiday season just around the corner, leading retailers are focused on delivering for consumers; smooth operations at our West Coast ports are crucial to that goal,” Dankert said. “Retailers and all other freight movers hope a contract resolution will be reached soon.”

Dankert went on to say “concrete progress is essential” to removing uncertainty when it comes to goods movement on the West Coast.

West Coast dockworkers, represented by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), which is negotiating for employers, began contract talks in May.

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The contract impacts some 22,000 people working at 29 ports.

Both parties released a joint statement July 1, the last public update, confirming cargo would continue to move as talks ran into overtime. Many industry watchers expected a contract renewal would not be struck by that deadline.

“Both sides understand the strategic importance of the ports to the local, regional and U.S. economies, and are mindful of the need to finalize a new coast-wide contract as soon as possible to ensure continuing confidence on the West Coast,” the PMA and ILWU said.

RILA’s statement comes amid a flurry of labor headlines within the logistics space in the past week that have implications for goods movement within the country and globally.

Truckers are protesting California’s Assembly Bill 5 (AB5), which applies a three-part test in the classification of workers as either independent contractors or employees. Some 70,000 owner-operators in the state would be impacted by AB5, according to the California Trucking Association (CTA).

The protests were prompted after the Supreme Court in late June refused to hear the CTA’s case that aimed to have the industry exempt from AB5.

Demonstrations began last week among truck drivers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach before moving north to the Port of Oakland Monday.

Some gates were at least temporarily blocked by protestors Monday. Some reports described the disruption as far reaching, with protests in Oakland expected to run through Wednesday.

Meanwhile, a possible rail strike was averted after President Biden established a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) on Friday that will intervene in rail labor negotiations in hopes of helping both sides reach an agreement on a new deal after two-and-a-half years of negotiations. Workers could have begun a work stoppage as early as Monday if the PEB was not established.