Members of the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) have spent the past seven months fighting for contract extensions, to no avail. Although tensions are at an all-time high over at the West Coast Ports, the labor negotiations have been put on hold until December. The PMA covers longshore workers in Tacoma, Seattle, Oakland, Los Angeles, and Long Beach.
The two groups have been unable to agree on much of anything, except for cautious consent over health care benefits, announced near the end of the summer. Without any further agreement, workers’ productivity has slowed down significantly and the ports have been clogged with traffic.
In a similar situation in 2012-2013, the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission had to step in and resolve the contract dispute between the East and Gulf Ports. Unable to agree on a coastwide contract, the situation was at last settled by the independent Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, and a strike was avoided. The ILWU has not threatened to strike, and the meetings are scheduled to continue post-Thanksgiving.
It is the hope of Congress, the Obama Administration and the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission that a compromise can be reached without excessive loss of business or productivity. It has been highly recommended that both parties consent to the use of a third-party mediator, as in the East & Gulf Ports dispute.