In the wake of the standstill many western ports have become backed up by people as well as shipping containers; docks and rail lines have been overwhelmed by a recent frac sand trend; and the waterways have become clogged with excessive traffic.
The real concern, however, is that the Longshore Union members have been working without a contract since July, and they’re not happy about it.
The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) has accused the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) of deliberately delaying progress at the ports. Although not ‘on strike,’ the ILWU is utilizing one of the most powerful weapons in their arsenal: The Slow-Down. This is a tactic used to gain leverage during negotiations, and to express displeasure with the current proceedings. By decreasing their productivity significantly, the workers send a clear message that they are unhappy with the way things are going, and enable themselves to promise that they can just as quickly increase work rate and flow when granted their demands.
Negotiations are expected to continue until mid-December, culminating with the ILWU Caucus on December 15th. If nothing can be proposed and agreed upon by this time, then little progress will commence.
As it seems that the two parties are already at an impasse, the option to call in a mediator looms ever nearer. Despite recent remarks by a representative of President Obama, it seems clear that these two will not reach an agreement. Both the PMA and the ILWU would be required to request a mediator in order to receive assistance.