Contract talks near for thousands of West Coast dockworkers

May 6, 2022, 3:30 PM | Updated: 4:22 pm

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Contract negotiations between 22,000 workers at 29 West Coast ports and representatives of shipping companies will begin next week with automation and its impact on jobs emerging as a major point of contention amid supply chain issues.

Talks between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association will take place against the backdrop of pandemic safety issues, surging imports that left backlogs of ships anchored offshore, and declining exports.

The current contract expires July 1.

Negotiations are expected to extend past that date, Pacific Maritime Association President and CEO Jim McKenna said Friday during an online briefing hosted by Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka.

“I think everybody is optimistic going into this one that we’re gonna get where we need,” McKenna said. “Whether we go past July 1 or not is not the issue. It’s just we need to stay at the table and get an agreement without causing any further disruptions.”

But with contract talks looming, the ILWU has reacted strongly to the release early this month of a report commissioned by the Pacific Maritime Association that strongly supported automated cargo handling and found that it did not hurt jobs.

“It’s obvious that the PMA is issuing its report as posturing as we go into negotiations,” union official Frank Ponce De Leon said in a statement Friday.

“However, much of what their report claims is counter to numerous previous reports on automated terminals that cite job loss and weakened efficiencies. The bottom line is that automation has killed jobs at the ports,” he wrote.

ILWU International President Willie Adams asserted in a separate letter that automation also poses a national security risk by placing ports at risk of being hacked.

Asked if he was concerned that the automation report would cause talks to begin with animosity, McKenna said there was nothing significant in the timing.

“We’ve had these discussions on an ongoing basis with the ILWU and they’re always difficult conversations,” he said. “I would say the very simple (reason) why the report was released when it was it’s because it was finished. It wasn’t any special timing.”

West Coast ports are key links to trade with Asia. The 29 ports represent approximately 12% of the nation’s gross domestic product, Seroka said.

The Port of Los Angeles and the neighboring Port of Long Beach, known as the San Pedro Bay port complex, collectively handle more than 30% of waterborne containerized imports and exports in the U.S.

The surge of imports during the pandemic has led to logjams of ships anchored off Southern California waiting to be unloaded and difficulties in moving cargo off the docks fast enough.

Seroka said those problems persist, especially for cargo destined to move out by rail, but the backlog of waiting ships has improved.

Ships are now staged 150 miles (241 kilometers) offshore for reasons including keeping pollution from affecting coastal communities.

“We’ve worked those down from a peak of 109 ships waiting back in January to today’s number of 35,” Seroka said. “There’s still much more work to do, but very encouraging.”

Forty-six ships were en route from Asia as of Friday.

McKenna said contract negotiations will cover hours, wages, working conditions and other topics, but he would not comment specifically on those issues or discuss the Pacific Maritime Association’s key goals in the contract.

“Hopefully everybody is focused to the point that there will be no further disruption to a fragile supply chain,” he said.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Lead water pipes pulled from underneath the street are seen in Newark, N.J., Oct. 21, 2021. (AP Pho...

Associated Press

Biden to require cities to replace harmful lead pipes within 10 years

The Biden administration has previously said it wants all of the nation's roughly 9 million lead pipes to be removed, and rapidly.

2 days ago

Facebook's Meta logo sign is seen at the company headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., on, Oct. 28, 2...

Associated Press

Meta shuts down thousands of fake Facebook accounts that were primed to polarize voters ahead of 2024

Meta said it removed 4789 Facebook accounts in China that targeted the United States before next year’s election.

2 days ago

A demonstrator in Tel Aviv holds a sign calling for a cease-fire in the Hamas-Israel war on Nov. 21...

Associated Press

Hamas releases a third group of hostages as part of truce, and says it will seek to extend the deal

The fragile cease-fire between Israel and Hamas was back on track Sunday as the first American was released under a four-day truce.

7 days ago

Men look over the site of a deadly explosion at Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza City, Wednesday, Oct. 18, ...

Associated Press

New AP analysis of last month’s deadly Gaza hospital explosion rules out widely cited video

The Associated Press is publishing an updated visual analysis of the deadly Oct. 17 explosion at Gaza's Al-Ahli Hospital.

10 days ago

Peggy Simpson holds a photograph of law enforcement carrying Lee Harvey Oswald's gun through a hall...

Associated Press

JFK assassination remembered 60 years later by surviving witnesses to history, including AP reporter

Peggy Simpson is among the last surviving witnesses who are sharing their stories as the nation marks the 60th anniversary.

10 days ago

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Sunday, ...

Associated Press

Israeli Cabinet approves cease-fire with Hamas; deal includes release of 50 hostages

Israel’s Cabinet on Wednesday approved a cease-fire deal with the Hamas militant group that would bring a temporary halt to a devastating war.

11 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Follow @KTAR923...

West Hunsaker at Morris Hall supports Make-A-Wish Foundation in Arizona

KTAR's Community Spotlight this month focuses on Morris Hall and its commitment to supporting the Make-A-Wish Foundation in Arizona.


Desert Institute for Spine Care

Desert Institute for Spine Care (DISC) wants to help Valley residents address back, neck issues through awake spine surgery

As the weather begins to change, those with back issues can no longer rely on the dry heat to aid their backs. That's where DISC comes in.



Importance of AC maintenance after Arizona’s excruciating heat wave

An air conditioning unit in Phoenix is vital to living a comfortable life inside, away from triple-digit heat.

Contract talks near for thousands of West Coast dockworkers