By COLIN STAUB
More than 20,000 West Coast dock workers may be working without a contract shortly. But the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) both say they’re focused on negotiating, rather than escalating action.
The ILWU Coast Longshore Division represents 22,000 ILWU workers at 29 ports on the West Coast. Along the Columbia River, those include the ports in Astoria, Longview, Vancouver, Portland, Kalama, St. Helens and Rainier. The terminal operators bargain together, represented by PMA.
Their current contract expires July 1 and they’ve been bargaining since May. Union and management recently announced they were unlikely to reach agreement before July 1. But despite previous negotiations leading to labor disputes, they said this round hasn’t gotten there yet.
“This timing is typical, and cargo operations continue beyond the expiration of the contract,” the joint statement said. “Neither party is preparing for a strike or a lockout, contrary to speculation in news reports. The parties remain focused on and committed to reaching an agreement.”
ILWU’s Longshore Division identified safety, wages, benefits, jurisdiction and technology as priorities for the new contract. Under the current contract, basic wages (without any skill level) start at $33.31 per hour and top out at $46.23. Skill and cargo penalty differentials increase pay from there.
The contract was slated to expire in 2019 until ILWU members voted to extend it. But when PMA asked for another extension last year, ILWU members declined.
A group of 23 U.S. Senate Republicans wrote to President Joe Biden on June 7, urging federal intervention to avoid economic disruption. Biden hasn’t gotten directly involved, although he met with ILWU and PMA and heard about negotiations during a June 10 visit to the Port of Los Angeles.
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