By Marissa Wenzke
More than two dozen ports along the West Coast have faced delayed shipments and oftentimes major financial losses as a result of work stoppages initiated by the Pacific Maritime Association.
As U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez flew into San Francisco on Feb. 16 to assist in labor negotiations between West Coast port workers and employers, the Port of Hueneme struggled to keep up with shipments after its operations were shut down for days due to the ongoing labor dispute.
“There’s ships just sitting at sea,” Port of Hueneme Director Kristin Decas said. “It’s putting a lot of stress on the supply chain… We’re scrambling.”
More than two dozen ports along the West Coast have faced delayed shipments and oftentimes major financial losses as a result of work stoppages initiated by the Pacific Maritime Association, which has been embroiled in a labor dispute with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union since previous negotiations expired in July. The association represents 72 companies, including shipping lines and terminal operators, while the union represents about 20,000 dockworkers along the West Coast.
On Feb. 11, the Association released a statement announcing it would suspend vessel operations over the following holiday weekend, which would have included higher pay rates of about $54 to $75 an hour for longshore workers and clerks and $72 to $92 an hour for foremen. Current contracts for these dockworkers pay a regular wage of about $26 to $41 an hour, including free healthcare.
PMA said the work stoppages were set forth because union representatives failed to accept a deal it offered earlier in February.
Warren Shelton, a longshore clerk and secretary-dispatcher for the Port Hueneme chapter of the ILWU, said dockworkers are not on strike and have been ready to work on the days that PMA has called for work stoppages.
“We’re ready to work, and they’re just not putting orders in,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like this in the 34 years I’ve been here.”
PMA could not be reached for comment as of press time, but port officials have said that they are supporting neither PMA or ILWU.
“From the port’s perspective, we’re stuck in the middle of this,” Decas said. “We don’t have a side in the negotiations.”