Employers and the union representing more than 22,000 dockworkers at 30 U.S. ports on the West Coast are unlikely to reach a wage deal by the time the current contract expires next month, but neither side foresees disruptions that would hobble supply chains.
“Neither party is preparing for a strike or a lockout,” the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents more than 70 terminal operators and ocean carriers, said in a joint statement Tuesday.
A collapse of the negotiations would risk a work stoppage during the busiest time of year at the nation’s largest ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, one that would snarl U.S. supply chains still suffering pandemic disruptions.
The sides’ commitment to keeping cargo moving throughout the process would avoid a repeat of the delays and congestion that hampered ports from San Diego to Bellingham, Washington, during the 2014 talks that extended into 2015.
The labor talks take place as the U.S. recovers from an unprecedented supply-chain crisis sparked by the Covid-19 pandemic.
At stake in the negotiations is no less than the recovery of the world’s biggest economy, already dealing with the most pernicious inflation in four decades, shortages of products ranging from baby formula to air-conditioner parts, and growing fears that another shock could tilt the country into a recession.
The current collective bargaining agreement expires at 5 p.m. on July 1, the parties said.
Talks for a new agreement began May 10 in San Francisco and will continue until an accord is reached.
Officials from the ILWU and PMA met with President Joe Biden during his visit to the Port of Los Angeles on Friday, discussing issues “including supply-chain congestion and their shared commitment to reach a collective bargaining agreement that is fair to both parties,” they said.
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