West Coast port labor talks

ILWU, PMA reach tentative deal on ‘certain key issues’

Excerpted from SupplyChainDive.com

Contract talks remain ongoing as the two sides near the one-year mark since negotiations began.

Published April 20, 2023

Edwin Lopez, Managing Editor

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union said in a press release Thursday negotiators had reached a tentative deal on “certain key issues” with the Pacific Maritime Association.

The longshore union did not specify which issues the new tentative agreements cover and declined to share further comments.

The news marks the first deal publicly announced since July 26, when the two sides said they had reached a tentative agreement on the maintenance of health benefits. Prior to the start of talks in May, port employers had said continuing to offer longshore workers with “world-class wages and benefits” was one of five principles guiding the PMA in contract talks.

Other principles include: avoiding work disruptions; prioritizing safety and training; “modernizing” terminals through densification and automation; and preparing to meet “stringent” environmental regulations, according to the PMA website.

The two parties began negotiating a new master contract in May 2022. Longshore workers and port terminals have been operating without an active contract since the old working agreement expired last July. Contract negotiations cover more than 22,000 longshore workers at 29 ports across the U.S. West Coast.

The ILWU reiterated “talks are continuing on an ongoing basis until an agreement is reached,” in its Thursday morning press release. The union had said the two sides were “hopeful of reaching a deal soon” in February.

Los Angeles, Long Beach port terminals shut down due to labor issues

Excerpted from SupplyChainDive.com, April 7, 2023

Terminals at the Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach have effectively shut down as a result of a local longshore labor action that began Thursday evening.

The Pacific Maritime Association, which represents West Coast port employers, said a local union at the twin ports withheld some labor for the evening shift on Thursday, leading to widespread labor shortages that halted operations. The actions have continued, leading to closures on Friday morning as well.

“The action by the Union has effectively shut down the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach – the largest gateway for maritime trade in the United States,” the PMA said in a statement.

Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero said in a statement four of the port’s container terminals are closed for the full day, noting that terminal operators shut down after workers did not report for the day.

“We have no further information as to the situation, but it is expected that normal, regularly scheduled hours and operations will resume tomorrow,” said Cordero.

The Port of Los Angeles said in a statement it is working with stakeholders, including federal officials, to “support a return to normal operations in the San Pedro Bay.”

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents dockworkers across the West Coast, declined to comment, referring inquiries to ILWU Local 13. The local union did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Port disruptions come at a tough time for the nation’s largest port complex, which continues to lose market share as shippers shift volumes elsewhere to avoid potential disruption from ongoing negotiations. While union leaders and port employers had insisted no major disruption would result from the talks, a lack of an enforceable contract has led to smaller disputes and other limited disruptions over the past year.

“These actions undermine confidence in West Coast ports and threaten to further accelerate the diversion of discretionary cargo to Atlantic and Gulf Coast ports. The health of the Southern California and state economy depend on the ability of the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to stem this market share erosion,” the PMA said.

Several logistics providers have warned their customers of potential delays and disruptions in light of the action at the San Pedro Bay ports.

“If your container was scheduled to be pulled last night, today, or over the weekend, expect delays in pulling the container. If your empty has not yet returned, expect delayed empty returns and unfortunately additional charges,” Ian Weiland, chief operating officer at Junction Collaborative Transports, said on LinkedIn.

Maersk, meanwhile, said in a customer advisory four of its vessel services — TP6 Maersk Eureka, TP8 Maersk Antares, WCCA Maersk Newcastle and TP2 MSC Livorno — had been affected by the work actions. The ocean liner said that ILWU Local 13 crane operators and top handler drivers “decided to reject their job assignments that were ordered by the employers for the evening’s second shift, impacting all Los Angeles and Long Beach terminals.”

Port disruption also come ahead of Easter Sunday on April 9, which is an ILWU holiday. At least one terminal, Long Beach Container Terminal, has marked its truck gates as closed for the holiday.

Sarah Zimmerman contributed to this story.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 23, 2023


PMA: news@pmanet.org, 415-576-3244

ILWU Coast Longshore Division: Jennifer Sargent Bokaie, jennifer@ilwu.org, 503-703-2933

ILWU-PMA Update on Contract Talks

SAN FRANCISCO, CA (February 23, 2023) – The international Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) announced today that they continue to negotiate and remain hopeful of reaching a deal soon. The parties have agreed not to discuss negotiations in the media as collective bargaining continues.

Negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement covering more than 22,000 dockworkers at 29 West Coast ports began on Tuesday, May 10, 2022, in San Francisco. The parties have reached a tentative agreement on certain key issues, including health benefits, and remain committed to resolving remaining issues as expeditiously as possible. Talks are continuing on an ongoing basis until an agreement is reached.

Negotiations are not open to the media or the public, and news articles purporting to know what is happening at the bargaining table are speculative at best. During negotiations, West Coast ports have continued to operate.

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Rail workers warn of exodus after Congress forces through deal


Railroad workers could leave the industry after Congress forced through a contract that does not provide them any paid sick days, an exodus that would ripple through an economy reliant on freight railroads to transport goods.

The exit of thousands of train conductors and engineers would be felt by major corporations and U.S. consumers alike. It could slow the delivery of food, fuel and online orders while strangling already-shaky supply chains.

The economy was almost upended by a nationwide strike before lawmakers intervened last week to enforce a deal many workers found lacking.

Those who were holding out hope for a strong contract might look for a new job after the deal failed to provide paid sick leave or put an end to strict attendance policies and strenuous schedules that require workers to be on call constantly, rail workers say.

“I don’t think you’ll just see half of the workforce disappear, but you’ll see a good percentage, and we can’t afford for anybody to leave because we’re so undermanned as it is,” said Hugh Sawyer, an Atlanta-based engineer at Norfolk Southern.

Any exodus of workers would only exacerbate staffing shortages brought on by railroads laying off around 30 percent of their workforce over the past six years. That, in turn, has led to exhausted workers and persistent delays and cancellations when demand for shipped products spiked.

Business groups have warned that the disruptions, which are driven by staffing shortfalls, helped fuel inflation.

Sawyer, who serves as treasurer of grassroots rail reform group Railroad Workers United, said that younger workers who place more emphasis on work-life balance will be the first to leave.

“Most of these people live in or around metro Atlanta. The economy’s booming. They will find a job elsewhere,” Sawyer said.

Workers say that some employees could leave as soon as they receive back pay and cash bonuses, which will average roughly $16,000 per person. Railroads will dole out that money within 60 days.

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) said in a statement that carriers hear workers’ concerns and agree that “conversations about work-life balance issues must continue.” The industry group said that railroads’ train and engine workforce has grown 8 percent since January.

“The benefits and compensation packages are part of why that is the case — both of which are seeing historic increases through this deal with average wages and compensation rising to $160,000 over the course of the contract,” an AAR spokesperson said. “Railroading is difficult work, and our employees are compensated accordingly in recognition of that.”

The contract signed into law Friday, negotiated with the help of the Biden administration, provides 24 percent raises over five years and allows workers to take three unpaid days off for medical appointments, a provision that wasn’t included in previous proposals.

But it doesn’t offer any paid sick days, adjust schedules or remove attendance policies that penalize workers for missing time to attend family gatherings or other scheduled events.

“They talk about the money in this contract. It’s just not worth it to have to give up what these people have to give up,” said Jeff Kurtz, a Railroad Workers United member who worked as a locomotive engineer in Iowa for 40 years.

Kurtz said that railway workers might take less money to work factory or trucking jobs that offer consistent hours and are always hiring.

Congress last week overrode four unions that had not ratified agreements with railroads. Those include train and engine workers at SMART-TD, the largest rail union, who rejected the tentative contract last month.

Unions lobbied lawmakers to add seven days of paid sick leave to the deal, while railroads pushed back, arguing that Congress would set a dangerous precedent by modifying the contract.

The House passed the sick leave measure with the support of every Democrat and three Republicans. Just six GOP senators voted for the proposal, dooming its chances in the upper chamber. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) was the only Democrat to vote against it.

“The senators who opposed the measure all have paid sick days, as do their staff. Apparently, they believe the nation’s rail workers are ‘essential’ to the American economy and supply chain, but not essential enough to deserve the same protection as them when becoming ill,” SMART-TD said in a statement following the vote.

Union officials have sought to keep hope alive by assuring workers that they are still pushing for paid sick leave. That could come in the form of another legislative effort or an executive order that requires federal contractors, including railroads, to provide paid sick days.

At the bill signing, President Biden said he would continue to fight for paid sick leave, but didn’t offer specifics on how he would go about it.

“It’s a really good bill lacking only one thing, and we’re going to get that one thing done before it’s all over,” Biden said.

And on Monday, activist investors filed proposals requesting that Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific provide paid sick leave, arguing that the companies must provide the benefit to stay competitive and keep workers safe.

“Focusing on the short term at the expense of workers poses potential risks to the company and the economy,” Kate Monahan, who leads shareholder advocacy at Trillium Asset Management, said in a statement. “As shareholders, we are asking management to reprioritize and take the longer-term view that safeguarding the health and safety of their workers will better position them for the future.”

Paid sick leave would represent a significant consolation prize for rail workers who are fed up with a system that they believe allows railroad executives to ignore their demands.

Railroads and unions engaged in tenuous negotiations for more than three years and remained at a standstill until a Biden-appointed board of experts released contract recommendations in July.

While workers in other essential industries took part in a wave of strikes this year, rail unions must overcome a series of roadblocks authorized by Congress that are explicitly designed to make a walkout difficult, if not impossible, taking away a key source of leverage. That system won’t change anytime soon.

“The federal government inserted itself into the dispute between the railroads and the railroad workers under the premise that it must protect the American economy. Yet, when the federal government makes that decision, its representatives have a moral responsibility to also protect the interests of the citizens that make this nation’s economy work — American railroaders,” Tony Cardwell, president of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division, said in a statement.

By Kristin Wilson, Paul LeBlanc and Clare Foran, CNN

Updated 1:22 PM EST, Wed November 30, 2022

WashingtonCNN —

The House on Wednesday approved legislation to avert a rail shutdown following a grave warning from President Joe Biden about the economic danger posed by congressional inaction.

By a 290 to 137 vote, the House passed the tentative rail agreement that will prevent a rail strike. The vote was largely bipartisan, with 79 Republicans joining Democrats in voting for the bill. Eight Democrats voted against the bill.

The House used an arcane procedure to pass the bill so that it can include language to give railroad workers paid leave, in a separate subsequent vote that progressives had called for. But, because it’s a procedure, the Senate can vote on the original measure without considering the paid leave component and won’t have to send it back to the House.

Without congressional action, a rail strike would have become a reality as early as December 9, causing shortages, spiking prices and halting factory production. It could also disrupt commuter rail services for up to seven million travelers a day and the transportation of 6,300 carloads of food and farm products a day, among other items, according to a collection of business groups.

A freight rail strike could cost the US economy $1 billion in its first week alone, according to a new analysis from the Anderson Economic Group.

As a result, Biden has pushed Congress to “immediately” pass the legislation to avert a shutdown.

The strategy of two different votes could give Democrats cover with the left angry at the lack of paid sick leave without jeopardizing passage of the bill in the Senate. That’s because if they were to add sick leave to the bill implementing the railway deal it would almost certainly cost them critical GOP support in the Senate and could sink the bill.

Biden’s warning

Calling himself a “proud pro-labor President,” Biden said in his Monday statement, “I am reluctant to override the ratification procedures and the views of those who voted against the agreement. But in this case – where the economic impact of a shutdown would hurt millions of other working people and families – I believe Congress must use its powers to adopt this deal.”

A rail shutdown, Biden warned, would “devastate the economy.”

While Biden said Tuesday he was “confident” a rail strike would be avoided after meeting with the top four congressional leaders, at least two House Democrats – Reps. Cori Bush of Missouri and Jamaal Bowman of New York – have already come out and said they don’t believe the bill goes far enough and needs to include paid leave.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told CNN “we’ll be fine” when asked if there’s enough votes for Democrats to pass the legislation, while House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer offered, “We’re counting.”

When pressed on whether he will likely need Republican votes to pass the legislation, Hoyer said “Yeah. We’d like to have Republicans. We think this is going to be a bipartisan vote.”

Uncertain future in the Senate

Once passed, Senate action could occur later this week or next, several Senate sources have told CNN. The Senate is expected to have the votes to break a filibuster on the bill to avert a potential railway strike, the Senate sources also said.

There are likely to be at least 10 Republicans who will vote with most Senate Democrats to overcome a 60-vote threshold.

But any one senator can slow the process down as timing agreements to move along legislation typically require unanimous consent from all 100 members of the chamber.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, tweeted Tuesday evening, “At a time of record profits in the rail industry, it’s unacceptable that rail workers have ZERO guaranteed paid sick days.”

“It’s my intention to block consideration of the rail legislation until a roll call vote occurs on guaranteeing 7 paid sick days to rail workers in America,” Sanders said.

Additionally, several Republican senators said Tuesday they are still weighing whether to back the legislation. Some said they are worried about what might be included in the final version of the legislation.

“We’re going to have look at the particulars of whatever bill might come before us,” said Indiana Republican Sen. Todd Young. “I haven’t seen the legislation.”

Alaska Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan, meanwhile, said he had “to get up to speed” on the issues before deciding. “I’m usually someone who supports the working man on a whole host of issues, but I don’t have a lot of knowledge on the details yet,” he said.

And Sen. Josh Hawley, a Republican of Missouri, also refused to state his position, and pointed to divisions across the aisle. “My understanding is my Democratic friends don’t agree on what needs to be done, so let’s see what happens,” he said.

One member of the GOP leadership, Sen. Deb Fischer of Nebraska, warned a rail strike would be “devastating” to the economy and would “hurt people.” She said she expects to back the bill.

“I think it’s important to see what comes over from the House, and I anticipate I will be voting in in favor of it,” she said. “We do not need to see a strike happen that could have such negative impacts on families.”

Railroad Unions and Companies Reach a Tentative Deal to Avoid a Strike

Excerpted from NYTimes.com, September 15, updated at 9:17AM ET, by Jim Tankersley

President Biden announced the agreement after negotiations brokered by the labor secretary lasted deep into the night.

WASHINGTON — Freight rail companies and unions representing tens of thousands of workers reached a tentative agreement to avoid what would have been an economically damaging strike, after all-night talks brokered by Labor Secretary Martin J. Walsh, President Biden said early Thursday morning.

The agreement now heads to union members for a ratification vote, which is a standard procedure in labor talks. While the vote is tallied, workers have agreed not to strike.

The talks brokered by Mr. Walsh began Wednesday morning and lasted 20 hours. Mr. Biden called in around 9 p.m. Wednesday, a person familiar with the talks said, and he hailed the deal on Thursday in a long statement.

“The tentative agreement reached tonight is an important win for our economy and the American people,” Mr. Biden said. “It is a win for tens of thousands of rail workers who worked tirelessly through the pandemic to ensure that America’s families and communities got deliveries of what have kept us going during these difficult years.”

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