Picture of a crane at a port with containers in the background.

As the contract negotiations between the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the employer group, Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), drag on into their eleventh month, the supply chain is losing its collective patience and is seeking federal government intervention. An alliance of importers, exporters and industry associations sent a letter to the Biden Administration requesting their involvement in the negotiations.

Federal mediators have been appointed in past negotiations, and it worked. Both sides were able to quickly come to an agreement. A federal mediator sure would be useful now. We are at a stalemate.

It is no secret the biggest stumbling block is jurisdictional disputes between the ILWU and the International Association of Machinists (IAM). These disputes are on-going and seem to be hanging up the contract and are resulting in cargo shifting to East and Gulf Coast ports.

The result is West Coast terminal operators reduce hours to match the diminished vessel calls and import cargo volumes, which negatively impacts both longshore jobs and exporters’ ability to get their cargo to market. .

Meanwhile, negotiations between the International Longshore Association (ILA) and the employer group, United States Maritime Alliance (USMX), covering the East and Gulf Coast ports have begun, and there is talk of signing a contract without fanfare or delay through 2030.

Looking from the outside, it looks like the ILA is eating the ILWU’s lunch.

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