June 5, 2023

Great Indian Mutiny

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Southern California ports closed on Friday, causing freight traffic jams

Dockworker shortages at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach extended into a second day Friday, bringing freight to a standstill at the massive shipping complex while disrupting the local economy and global supply chain.

The shortage comes after several months of protracted labor negotiations between the union representing West Coast dockworkers and the industry group representing ocean shippers, which is hammering out a new contract focused in part on wages and the role of automation. The old contract, covering more than 22,000 workers at 29 ports, expired on July 1.

The Pacific Maritime Assn. , the industry group representing shippers at the negotiating table, he said in a statement Friday The International Warehousing and Warehousing Federation Longshore has taken “coordinated action withholding labor”.

“The majority of last night’s shift positions were not filled, including all cargo-handling equipment operator positions needed to load and unload cargo,” the statement read. “The workers who showed up were released because there wasn’t a full group of ILWU members to operate the stations.”

ILWU Local 13 he said in a statement On Friday afternoon, he said its members “are still working hard and remain committed to carrying the nation’s load.” The labor shortage occurred because several thousand members attended a monthly Thursday evening meeting and were observing the feast of Good Friday, as permitted by the contract.

Although both sides have been largely silent on the status of contract negotiations, the latest development has underscored their importance.

“It’s pretty clear that this is a wake-up call for port operators,” said Harley Chaiken, a professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley who specializes in labor issues. “Not only has this process been slow, but it has been slowly progressing with very high stakes in the balance.”

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Because its members can block ports along the West Coast, Scheken said, the longshore union has unparalleled strength, especially relative to the size of the workforce.

“This has really caught the nation’s attention, and should add a sense of urgency to the negotiations,” he said.

LA and Long Beach Ports They combine to handle nearly 40% of US imports from Asia, which arrive in giant metal containers on ships that stretch nearly as long as the Empire State Building. But cargo traffic has fallen sharply in recent months, allowing the combined ports of New York and New Jersey to snatch No. 1 bragging rights intermittently. Los Angeles.

The domestic downward trend is worrisome not only for officials at the dual ports but also for the 175,000 Southern California workers — who work in the ports themselves as well as in related businesses — moving $469 billion worth of cargo annually, according to data from the ports. At stake are jobs along the supply chain, including truck drivers, warehouse workers and people employed by logistics professionals.

“It is important that things get back to normal as soon as possible,” he said. jock o’connell, An economist in international trade, he pointed out that the local ports lost a large amount of business to their competitors on the eastern and Gulf coasts. US retailers and manufacturers have rerouted cargo after a massive backlog in San Pedro Bay that began in 2020, benefiting from major investment by competing ports looking to grab the shipping business away from Southern California.

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“It’s possible some of this business will never come back,” said O’Connell, who works for Beacon Economics. He added that the current stop will create a ripple effect, affecting countless jobs and industries tangentially linked to the movement of goods through the region.

“The economic impact of this lockdown will be felt,” he said.

According to James Stearns, associate professor in the Department of Applied Economics at Oregon State University, there is a precedent for contentious labor disputes translating not only into temporarily rerouted businesses, but also into more permanent changes.

In 2016, for example, spiteful labor disputes at the Port of Portland eventually led to both of the port’s container terminal operators leaving the port for good.

In a statement Friday, Los Angeles Port officials said they are speaking with both Union and Pacific Maritime Assn. , as well as local, state, and federal officials, about returning to normal operations.

“Resuming cargo operations at America’s busiest port complexes is critical,” the statement reads, “to maintain confidence for our customers and supply chain stakeholders.”

The National Retail Federation also issued a statement on Friday saying the retail group had expressed concerns about the White House closure and urging administration officials to intervene to prevent further disruptions.

In the past month, the union – along with dozens of other associations – I sent a message To President Biden, he requests his administration to provide mediation services to both negotiating parties and to do everything in their power to ensure that an agreement is reached as soon as possible.

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The economic importance of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach is great enough that former US presidents have interceded to move goods again.

In 2002, President Bush closed 29 West Coast ports for 11 days to stop employers closing West Coast longshoremen. In 2021, before holiday freight traffic was crushed, Biden helped broker a plan to expand hours at domestic ports, hoping to ease bottlenecks that have intensified amid the COVID-19 pandemic bottlenecks.

O’Connell said the president is likely watching the current outage as well.

“A Democratic president doesn’t like these kinds of problems,” he said. “It’s a labor issue and President Biden is going to try to make sure this doesn’t get out of hand.”