longshoremen and the Pacific Maritime Association to begin collective bargaining | KFI AM 640

LOS ANGELES (CNS) – The Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union will begin collective bargaining today for 22,000 dockworkers at 29 West Coast ports, including the two busiest U.S. ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Negotiations will take place daily in San Francisco until an agreement is reached between the ILWU and the PMA, which represents employers who operate marine terminals and shipping lines.

The current bargaining agreement, which covers 15,500 employees, expires July 1.

Bargaining talks come as the United States experiences supply chain disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic and historic freight volume, putting some on the alert that negotiations could create a backlog additional in the supply chain.

PMA President and CEO Jim McKenna said the association is committed to negotiating a contract without interruption.

“Any disruption would be debilitating to the US economy. We and the ILWU need to stay at the table and negotiate, with no impact on West Coast marine terminals,” he said.

McKenna noted that nearly half of Asian imports destined for the United States pass through West Coast ports, which collectively supported nearly $2 trillion in economic value to the United States last year, or about 9% of the country’s GDP, he said.

During tense contract negotiations in 2002, ports from San Diego to Seattle were closed after the PMA locked out dockworkers, accusing them of participating in a downturn that amounted to a strike in name.

The lockout lasted ten days.

“It is no secret that past contract negotiations between the PMA and the ILWU have not always gone smoothly. That’s why I’ve heard from worried importers and exporters across our country about upcoming talks,’ McKenna said, reiterating his association’s commitment to avoiding disruption.

In remarks ahead of negotiations, McKenna bragged about the salaries of ILWU members, saying they made nearly $195,000 a year on average, and adding that the PMA “will continue to provide salaries and benefits world-class social”.

However, the ILWU disagrees with the way its employers calculate the average wage for workers, saying they only take into account a specific category of workers, who in most cases work in the workplace. industry for decades.

‘The only accurate way to discuss longshoreman wages is to quote hourly pay, which in our current collective agreement starts at $32.31 an hour…many longshoremen, especially casuals, cannot get only enough hours to match part-time work,” ILWU says on its website.

McKenna added that the PMA’s priorities also include continuing to create training opportunities for stevedores for high-skilled jobs, modernizing terminals, including through automation, and meeting environmental regulations to protect health. workers.

ILWU International President Willie Adams said in an open letter Friday that the union is seeking ‘a contract that honors, respects and protects good American jobs and American importers and exporters, while reflecting the hard work that ‘they have accomplished not only throughout COVID but in our 88 year history in ports.’

Adams added that some companies are looking to automate the U.S. terminals they lease at ports to use “robots instead of American workers to operate the heavy equipment that moves cargo.”

“These attempts should be of concern to our nation because the intent behind them is not what’s best for America, but rather what’s best for foreign profit,” Adams said.

McKenna asserted, however, that automated terminals expand “work opportunities for ILWU members” and are more efficient at handling historic freight volume.

Automation was one of the main points of contention during collective bargaining in 2002.

The negotiations are not open to the public or the media.

Andrew B. Reiter