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US West Coast port workers shut terminals in showdown over pay

The employers of more than 22,000 dock workers at U.S. West Coast seaports on Friday said the union representing those laborers “is staging concerted and disruptive work actions” that have shut down some terminal operations at major gateways.

The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), which represents terminal operators, said union workers have “effectively shut down” or “severely impacted” some terminals at ports including Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland in California and Tacoma and Seattle in Washington state.

The latest work actions come as labor talks between the PMA and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) stretch into their 13th month.

Negotiators are in their final push, with wages and benefits remaining. A source told Reuters talks broke down on Thursday because the two sides are far apart on pay.

ILWU International President Willie Adams in a statement said talks are ongoing. He vowed to continue fighting for members who kept goods flowing through the COVID-19 shudowns, risking severe illness and even death. The contract covering those members expired in July.

“We aren’t going to settle for an economic package that doesn’t recognize the heroic efforts and personal sacrifices of the ILWU workforce that lifted the shipping industry to record profits,” when cargo surged during the early days of the pandemic, Adams said.

The West Coast is home to the busiest U.S. container port complex at Los Angeles/Long Beach. Pacific Coast ports are an important engine of the U.S. economy and handle everything from apparel and furniture to agricultural products and automobiles.

The Port of Oakland appeared to be the hardest hit on Friday with international terminals closed for the day shift and a domestic terminal on limited operations, a spokesperson said.

Some Port of Los Angeles terminals were affected by labor shortages, a spokesperson there said.

Southern California’s ILWU Local 13 in a statement released on Twitter said employers have “thumbed their noses” at worker pay requests. That local, representing roughly 12,000 longshoremen in Los Angeles and Long Beach, said its rank-and-file union members “had taken it upon themselves to voice their displeasure with the ocean carriers’ and terminal operators’ position.”

Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero said all of its terminals remained open.

He urged the two sides to continue negotiating in good faith. “The national economy relies on an outcome that keeps goods moving” Cordero said.

Friday’s protests come as major retailers such as Walmart, Target and gear up for this year’s back-to-school and Christmas shopping seasons.

Meanwhile, West Coast ports have lost cargo to rival ports on the East and Gulf Coasts as shippers worry that a breakdown in talks could strand cargo on ships or in docks.

Source: Reuters

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