The contract between shipping companies and 22,000 West Coast dockworkers affiliated with the International Longshore Workers Union ran out last Friday at 5 p.m., but the union is holding off on a strike as both sides continue to negotiate, the Associated Press reports.
While shipping continues apace as the sides try to hammer out a new contract, a work stoppage would hit ports from California to Oregon and Washington State—ports that handle nearly 40 percent of all U.S. imports a time when supply chain issues are already exacerbating the nation’s highest inflation since about the fourth season of Taxi.
“While there will be no contract extension, cargo will keep moving, and normal operations will continue at the ports until an agreement can be reached,” read a joint statement from the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.
“Both sides understand the strategic importance of the ports to the local, regional and US economies, and are mindful of the need to finalize a new coast-wide contract as soon as possible to ensure continuing confidence in the West Coast,” the ILWU and PMA said.
The ILWU and the more than 70 employers represented by the Pacific Maritime Association started talks May 10 for a new blanket contract for longshore workers across 29 ports, the Los Angeles Times reported.
At least one boss thinks a resolution will be reached soon.
“I’m extremely confident that there will be a mutual resolution here within a reasonable time,” Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero said an interview with Bloomberg TV. “I can guarantee you the cargo is going to keep moving.”
The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in particular had already fumbled the clearing of two years of “pandemic-era congestion… continuously dealing with landslide issues such as clogged warehouses and railroads and unused truck gates,” according to the Times.
The West Coast ports are the main source of entry to China, and the White House has been watching the negotiations carefully. President Biden met with the both groups in June.
“When I first started talking about the supply chain, when I came here a year ago,” he said at the Port of Los Angeles, “[people] still have to understand the supply chain. But they understand it fully now. If you can’t get the material to build a product, whether it’s an automobile, or whatever it is, it makes it difficult to be able to move.”