The BOC Blast 203 – ILWU vote promises five years of US West Coast labor peace

ILWU vote promises five years of US West Coast labor peace

Bill Mongelluzzo, Senior Editor | Jul 28, 2017 4:05PM EDT,

International Longshore and Warehouse Union membership gave a thumbs up to an early contract extension.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union Friday announced that early reporting of coastwide election returns show the ILWU rank and file approved a three-year contract extension through July 1, 2022, signalling the potential for strong labor peace at West Coast ports for the next five years.

“Members of the ILWU voted on the employers’ unprecedented contract extension proposal after a year-long debate and democratic process in which every registered longshore worker from Bellingham, Washington, to San Diego, California, had an opportunity to vote,” the ILWU stated.

The subject of a contract extension was first raised in March 2015 at the JOC’s annual TPM Conference, when Pacific Maritime Association President James McKenna suggested that the ILWU consider an extension, and ILWU President Robert McEllrath told him to send the ILWU a formal letter.

The results of the West Coast vote that was taken this past month, which the ILWU expects will soon be formally ratified, will shift the attention of beneficial cargo owners to the East Coast, where the International Longshoremen’s Association and the United States Maritime Alliance have also been discussing the possibility of extending their contract, which is scheduled to expire on Sept. 30, 2018.

Beneficial cargo owners represented by dozens of trade organizations have been encouraging the longshore unions and employer organizations on both coasts to extend their contracts so it will be safe for US importers and exporters to plan their supply chain logistics for the next five years.

By the same token, given the intense competition among ports on both coasts for market share, a guarantee of labor peace will promote growing cargo volumes, and jobs, for both the ILWU and the ILA. BCOs want to avoid the crippling effects of work slowdowns and stoppages such as occurred during the 2014-15 negotiations  between the ILWU and the PMA.

Container volume growth so far this year has been stronger than in previous years, and IHS Markit Senior Economist Mario Moreno projects US imports from Asia, which represent the most highly-contested market segment for  ports  on  both coasts, will increase 6.6 percent in 2017.