PMA Accuses ILWU Of Coast-Wide Disruptions of West Coast Ports

Excerpted from AJOT.com, by Stas Margarines Jun 02, 2023

The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) says the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) “is staging concerted and disruptive work actions that have effectively shut down operations at some marine terminals” At West Coast Ports on June 2nd.

The Full Statement PMA provided to AJOT reads as follows:

“Today, the ILWUI is staging concerted and disruptive work actions that have effectively shut down operations at some marine terminals at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The union is also staging similar work actions that have shut down or severely impacted terminal operations at the Ports of Oakland, Tacoma, Seattle, and Hueneme.”

ILWU Local 13 representing longshore workers at Los Angeles and Long Beach issued the following rationale:

“On June 2nd, 2023, the rank-and-file members of the Southern California ILWU has taken It upon themselves to voice their displeasure with the ocean carriers’ and terminal operators’ position. However, cargo operations in the ports continue as longshore workers remain on the job to move the nation’s cargo, as they have done valiantly for decades.”

The Local 13 statement explained that the “ocean carriers and terminal operators have thumbed their noses at the work forces’ basic requests, insinuating that the health risks and loss of lives these working people endured during the pandemic did not matter to them and they were expendable in the name of profits. The work forces’ requests are not outlandish: they are basic requests that will ensure that the workforce is treated with dignity and respect that they have fought so hard to earn.”

A source at the Port of Los Angeles told AJOT that the situation was “spotty with the steadies arriving at work but not casuals so that it is a hit and miss situation at marine terminals at Los Angeles and Long Beach this morning.”

Port Of Oakland

Meanwhile at the Port of Oakland, Oakland International Container Terminal, which accounts for two thirds of the port’s volume, reported a work stoppage: “OICT will not be working today 6.2.23 on the first shift. We are not sure, at this time, when normal work will resume. We are not being provided ILWU labor at this time. We will provide updated information as it becomes available.”

Previous Signs Were Positive

Up until this point, there had been positive signs that a labor agreement between the ILWU and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) was imminent after talks have dragged on for almost a year.

In his May media briefing, Eugene Seroka, Executive Director, Port of Los Angeles said: “I believe that we’re on the doorstep of a tentative agreement. Both sides are spending a lot of time at the negotiating table, and I’m optimistic we’ll hear good news soon. A tentative agreement would be a welcome development for customers who have been diverting cargo elsewhere. Resolving this issue will send a clear signal of stability.”

Did The ILWU Overplay Its Hand?

One terminal executive told AJOT that the ILWU may have “overplayed its hand” by not agreeing to a contract last July 2022 when ocean carriers and maritime terminals were flush with cash during the pandemic when freight rates and container volumes were soaring.

The dragging on of negotiations into 2023 means that a wage and benefit package will be far less generous because marine terminals on the West Coast are reporting major drops in volumes that may persist until 2024, the source said.

There have also been concerns expressed that the delay in reaching a contract was motivated by a mistaken focus by some ILWU leaders on dismantling existing automation at terminals and electrification projects that could not be overturned. This has resulted in substantial cargo being diverted away from the West Coast ports and towards East and Gulf Coast ports. In turn this has resulted in a loss of business and longshore work.

California Exporter Goes East

One California agricultural exporter said his company is now utilizing a rail service to ship products to East Coast ports for export. The service bypasses West Coast ports. The exporter blamed the uncertain labor atmosphere created by the ILWU over the last ten years for the decision.

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

Contacts:

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.

Did you know:

General insurance policies rarely cover marine cargo claims. You need a marine cargo insurance policy, or you may need to purchase marine cargo insurance on each shipment.

Many carriers will not take responsibility for loss or damage if a warehouse signs off clean on a POD. It is critical, before signing a POD, to note the condition of the cargo. Claims are usually time-barred, unless filed within a few days (standards vary by carrier). So alert your carrier to possible damage immediately. The best way to do this is by signing the delivery receipt notating damage! And be specific, for example, 8 glasses broken, 10 boxes crushed (Make ensure that you have the correct boxes or pallet count).

Every Shipper Needs Cargo Insurance

Global trading involves risk; however, marine cargo insurance coverage minimizes your financial risk. Don’t leave your livelihood up to chance!

Statistics show that one ship sinks each day and you will experience a General Average loss every eight years. If you depend on the carrier to cover losses, their responsibility is very limited (by law), as follows:

Ocean Carriers         $500 per shipping unit (a shipping unit may be defined as one ocean container)

Air Carriers                $9.07 per pound

Truckers                     $0.50 per pound

The cargo insurance we offer is competitively priced and insures approved merchandise against physical loss or damage from external causes. By purchasing cargo insurance, you can avoid inconvenience and frustration. Contact your BOC Representative for your free quote.

Shippers who rely on suppliers to furnish cargo insurance or who rely on their carriers to take responsibility for losses may be in for a big surprise. Protect your investments by insuring your goods, and provide peace of mind.

According to internationally accepted trade terms, referred to as Incoterms, suppliers selling CIF are responsible for arranging cargo insurance. But just because your supplier has the obligation to arrange insurance under CIF terms, it doesn’t mean that they are ultimately responsible if your product is lost or damaged during transit. The ultimate burden of loss falls upon you, the buyer. This is why many experts recommend importers change their buying terms to control the selection, and thereby, the quality, of insurance coverage.

Foreign suppliers and their forwarding agents often add on additional fees to the insurance costs. Those added fees inflate the cost of insurance well beyond market pricing for the same coverage purchased in the United States. Find out how much you’re really paying and then compare quotes received from BOC International.

Additionally, when other parties arrange insurance, you run the risk of having inadequate insurance coverage. Cargo insurance policies can vary widely in levels of coverage, deductibles and special restrictions. Ask for a complete copy of the insurance policy or for a certificate of insurance detailing all the policy terms and conditions.

At least make certain the insurer being used has a favorable financial rating supplied by a respected financial rating service. BOC’s insurance company, underwriters at Lloyd’s of London, has an A.M. Best financial rating of A (Excellent).

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Are you familiar with GENERAL AVERAGE?

There are a number of notable cases of damage or loss to a vessel, with many resulting in General Average! More recent examples include:

  • Ever Forward, March 2022
  • Ever Given, April 2021, stuck in the Suez Canal
  • Yantian Express, January 2019
  • APL Vancouver, January 2019
  • ER Kobe, February 2019
  • Sincerity Ace – January 2019
  • Maersk Honam – March 2018
  • Maersk Kensington – March 2018
  • Hyundai Auto Banner – May 2018
  • MOL Prestige – February 2018
  • Caribbean Fantasy – June 2018

Ever Given – The claim process is still ongoing. The average time a case can take is two to seven years.

General Average claims can include a long list of expenses, including damage to the vessel, re-floating efforts, towing and salvors. Egypt alone believes it is owed more than $1 billion in the Ever Given case.

General Average Background

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How does General Average work?

  • Value of the voyage is determined (vessel value plus value of all cargo on the vessel).
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  • The loss amount is determined, and participation percentage is applied, to the loss amount, to determine security deposit.
  • Shipper/Consignee or their cargo insurer pay twice – first for the initial contribution, then for a bond covering future adjustments to that estimate.
  • Freight may not be released until ALL deposits/payments have been received by all parties involved.

Difficulties of preventing and extinguishing fires on the open sea, which increases the likelihood of a General Average claim, include:

  • Ships are larger with more varied cargo.
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  • Prevention is difficult, with rising problems with mis-declared cargo.
  • IMDG Code is evolving to impose stricter rules on dangerous goods (DG.)

Problems Facing the Industry

  • Stricter rules on Dangerous Goods cargo will lead to higher costs and more incentive on the part of shippers to avoid proper declarations.
  • Ship owners and shipbuilders need to improve fire-fighting capabilities with CO² systems being shown to be inadequate – cost benefit analysis.
  • National Cargo Bureau in NY found in 2017 that of 1,721 stowage plans inspected, 20% showed errors with DG.

General Average will (probably) never go away, so, keep yourself informed:

  • Awareness across all business units that losses & delays are part of any supply chain. Mission-critical shipments need more risk analysis to determine transport mode.
  • Understanding of what to do when General Average occurs. This is best led by your cargo insurance provider meeting with your ‘team,’ not just the risk manager or CFO.
  • Have a contingency plan or at least an understanding of how the event will unfold.

MAKE SURE YOU ARE COVERED! Ask the questions. Do not assume.

Effective March 18, 2023, Postal Code Required in EIN for Certain Shippers in China

Rail workers warn of exodus after Congress forces through deal

BY KARL EVERS-HILLSTROM 12/06/22 06:00 AM ET, THEHILL.COM

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.”

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