Labor Boss Says West Coast Dockworker Employers Will Get Deal

International Longshore and Warehouse Union President Willie Adams said dockworkers at the U.S.’s West Coast ports and their employers would likely reach an agreement to change labor hours when their current contract expires this summer. 

“It takes a collaboration, and we will get there,” said Adams in an April 12 interview with the Pacific Maritime Association when asked about the union’s relationship with ocean carriers and terminal operators. “It’s like a marriage, right? There are bumps, there’s ups and downs, but you’ve got to enjoy the ride.” 

Talks to hammer out a new labor contract for West Coast dockworkers are set to begin May 12, ahead of the July 1 expiration date for the current contract. 

The expiring contract covers about 22,000 West Coast dockworkers — represented by the ILWU — and their employers, ocean carriers, and port operators, represented by the PMA.

While Adams and ILWU Coast Committeeman Frank Ponce De Leon didn’t say specifically what their demands would be for the labor talks, they called on the PMA to be more involved in developing training programs through a new facility at the port. 

 

“I’m going to challenge PMA. They need to be fully invested in developing the training programs, not only for longshore but also for mechanics and our clerks and foremen,” Ponce De Leon said in an interview with Bloomberg. “We’re their workforce, and you can’t say that you’re committed and use a lot of lingo, and then you’re missing an action,” Adams said of the PMA’s involvement in labor-force training programs. 

 

Adams credited efforts by the White House to get parties to the negotiating table and resolve congestion and supply-chain issues at the ports brought on throughout the pandemic. 

“The president was challenging everybody to put some skin in the game,” Adams said.

 

PMA Chief Executive Officer Jim McKenna gave 50-50 odds that the talks will conclude smoothly before July 1. Mckenna said they may be a bit too optimistic, but “we are certainly trying to accomplish that. There will not be a lack of trying.”

 

Some past disputes between the union and the PMA have proved crippling for shipments to the western seaboard, stoking fears of a repeat just as dockyards work to clear backlogs of goods brought on by pandemic disruptions and historic consumer demand for goods. 

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