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West Coast port companies to suspend vessel operations for 4 days; union reacts

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SEATTLE — The association representing port terminal operators announced Wednesday that it will shut down vessel operations at West Coast ports from Thursday through Monday, Presidents Day, because of ongoing union slowdowns during contract negotiations.

“In light of ongoing and costly ILWU (International Longshore & Warehouse Union) slowdowns, PMA members will temporarily suspend premium pay weekend and holiday vessel operations on four upcoming dates, while yard, gate and rail operations will continue at terminal operators’ discretion,” the Pacific Maritime Association announced.

PMA spokesman Wade Gates said, “Last week, PMA made a comprehensive contract offer designed to bring these talks to conclusion. The  ILWU responded with demands they knew we could not meet, and continued slowdowns that will soon bring West Coast ports to gridlock. What they’re doing amounts to a strike with pay, and we will reduce the extent to which we pay premium rates for such a strike.”

A lockout would shutter 29 ports that handle about one-quarter of the nation’s international trade.

The ILWU issued the following statement:

“Today, the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), a consortium of international corporations, informed the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) that ships will not be worked at West Coast Ports four of the next five days.

“This action marks the second time in less than a week that employers have idled vessels.

“The same group of predominantly foreign-owned companies also cancelled a negotiating session scheduled today for 1pm with the ILWU’s Negotiating Committee. The employers have not made themselves available to negotiate since Friday of last week.

“This is an effort by the employers to put economic pressure on our members and to gain leverage in contract talks,” said ILWU President Robert McEllrath. “The Union is standing by ready to negotiate, as we have been for the past several days.

“At the same time that PMA announced this action and cancelled today’s negotiations, PMA’s public relations firm issued a press release that grossly mischaracterizes the ILWU’s current bargaining position.

“It seems to us that the employers are trying to sabotage negotiations,” said McEllrath. “They are not just hurting workers, families and communities,” he said, “what our employers are doing is bad for the industry and the US economy.”




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  • Jon

    Didnt the PMA just offer the ILWU Members $160 a year PLUS benefits? And the union didnt accept that? HOLY COW! And as a first year teacher with a Masters I will make $40K! I am in the wrong line of work! This is why I dislike unions!

    • tony

      maybe you should take a propaganda class while your still in school, if u take a step back you might realize that your reaction is exactly what the PMA is looking for with its press releases. They are trying to make it sound like the argument is over money, when in fact its over whether or not an arbritrator can be changed once every 5-6 years. The current on has been there for 12….doesnt sound like greed to me.

        • Dan

          That figure is WAY inflated and it’s the same knee jerk reaction PMA President McKenna who makes $900K a year wants you to believe. History has a way of sorting itself out. That’s apparent with PMA’s last CEO that was fired and sued by PMA for side deals. Looks that up…
          Here’s the bottom line. No longshoreman wants to be forced to work less or or not work their normal skilled job because PMA wants to lie about how we’re slowing down or there’s not enough room in the yards. There are aerial photos to support all of the empty areas on these terminals while ships pile up. All the while PMA STILL hasn’t brought back the night shift ship work to fill these yards? Only dayside are working vessels that use to take 3-4 days to turn around are taking 8 days!
          The ships are getting bigger and the companies PMA manages are mis-managing them and trying to point the finger on someone. Chassis used for truckers to haul loads can’t because instead of being fixed, and what they agreed to longshore fixing them, they’re sending them to the scrap yard!
          To make matters worst truckers relied upon to move the cargo off of the terminals are down 30% because of not being able to upkeep their rigs and meet their needs on peanut wages…
          Don’t take my word for it and certainly believe the spoon fed crap propaganda news are telling you that we’re on strike, slowing down…
          Hell we’re being locked out with minimal work because PMA doesn’t give a crap about our economy!
          Do your due diligence and tell me how PMA gets their inflated $160K when its more like $80/90K…
          We have what we got because men sacrificed with their lives and bled on the streets after being shot by the National Guard!
          I might also remind those that bash unions to read up on your history and learn about the regulations of labor laws were because of unions, so don’t be ignorant…

    • Don

      The new even greedier union, they don’t strike, they just work extremely slow, drawing pay for essentially doing nothing. I’ve got a shipment in a container that’s headed back to China now, the ship line offloaded what they could in Canada, loaded back up and sailed East, bypassing Tacoma and Long Beach. I might get it in a month, or I may never get it, no way to know.

      • Dan

        Don I feel for the businesses as a longshoreman but truth be told PMA has locked us out by working at half the efficiency by taking away the normal ship cargo moving at night and lying about how they’re isn’t enough room in the yard. Read more about this above in my mini novel in a previous reply.
        ILWU actually helped a small business track down what was being told a container was on a ship when it wasn’t and mounted it on a chassis for a truck driver to pick up. Unfortunately there aren’t more teamster truckers to move cargo…

  • Don

    Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered. The ILWU has been blackmailing the industry for years while the rest of us poor blue collar slobs get the shaft. I’m all for collective bargaining but the people really losing on this deal are the small businesses that have freight left adrift and the steamship lines. Lock ’em out and call in the guard.

    • ART Office Services

      And what does this solve? The slow down is caused by the stevedore companies locking out or not hiring the work force to get the cargo moving. Longshoremen just want to do their jobs and provide for their families. The companies want to blame the longshoremen for their inability to manage the movement of cargo and the public is unaware,deaf, blind and not informed on what is really going on. Do some fact checking on the companies who charge and sell shipping space. Then you will see who is making the money and that it is not the longshoremen that is creating high shipping costs.

  • baldone01

    Fire the lot of ’em & de-certify the greedy union. Worked for Reagan & the air traffic controllers. There are plenty of unemployed people out there that would love to make six figures a year–it’s not like you need a college degree to load/unload containers.

    • Dan

      ILWU is a great union, one of few left. There are many part time longshoreman called casuals with 10 years of waiting because PMA doesn’t want to pay them benefits. Those same people put in their interest cards and post cards to earn their way in so stop your whining about unemployed people doing the kind of work we do. By the way there are many Dr’s still practicing in the ILWU so bite your tongue with your ignorance of not knowing who makes up ILWU.

  • Randy

    Automation and containerization has let to huge productivity gains in shipping. Labor is entitled to its fair share. The ILWU is a strong union that has assured that labor gets what it deserves. Many non-union workers have often seen their wages shrink – and who do they blame? Union workers in other occupations other than their own? International shipping has never been cheaper.

    • matt

      And the economy pays for it. Wages should be based off supply and demand , not bullied by unions who paid off politicians. Rationalize all you want, it’s a true racket

      • Dan

        Matt political support has nothing to do with PMA as a company dictating the moving of cargo by foreign companies.
        Read up on my previous posts and learn their history of lies…

  • Jon

    I’ll never understand the people who side with foreign shipping lines over workers from their own community.
    I’m sorry your wages and benefits aren’t the same as members of the ILWU. It’s a shame you would rather see their standard of living reduced rather unionizing and trying to improve your own situation.