West Coast longshoremen and their employers have agreed to early contract talks which shippers hope can avert a future strike.
About 100 delegates of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union recently voted to approve the plan for early talks with the Pacific Maritime Association.
Negotiations may lead to continuing the current contract for an unspecified period after it is due to expire on July 1, 2019. (AA, 8-15-16, P. 4). ILWU represents about 20,000 workers employed at 29 port facilities located on the West Coast in California, Oregon and Washington State.
The PMA represents terminal operators and ship lines who employ those workers. The talks are scheduled to begin at the beginning of November.
“The caucus made a tough decision under current circumstances amid a wide range of concerns and opposing views on how to respond to PMA’s request,” observed ILWU International President Robert McEllrath.
“This is a directive to go and have discussions with the PMA and report back to the membership, and we’ll do just that, with the wellbeing of the rank and file, our communities, and the nation in mind.”
Shippers hope the early negotiations will help prevent the repeat of the lengthy strike that began in July 2014 and ended in February 2015 which disrupted the flow of freight to and from Asia, damaging economies on both sides of the Pacific.
In an editorial, the Yakima Herald-Republic newspaper noted that apple growers in Washington’s Yakima Valley are still reeling from the last strike. “As businesses continue to deal with the impact of the past, there is a glimmer of hope that a disastrous repeat of the labor dispute may be averted in the future,” the newspaper said.