UPDATE: Employers, via the Pacific Maritime Association, reported Sunday work has since resumed at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
Terminals at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach were forced to close after workers did not report for duty beginning Thursday evening.
Employers, represented by the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) in collective bargaining, said the insufficient number of workers caused it to release employees who did show up for work due to there not being enough labor to support full terminal operations.
“The action by the union has effectively shut down the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the largest gateway for maritime trade in the United States,” the PMA said Friday. “The union’s coordinated actions are occurring while negotiations for a new coast-wide contract continue.”
The PMA has been in negotiations on a new contract with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), the group representing more than 22,000 workers at 29 U.S. West Coast ports, since last year. The previous agreement expired in July, leaving workers without a new contract since then.
Retailers called on the Biden administration to intervene in the situation in an effort to avoid disruptions in cargo movement as the apparel industry looks to leave COVID-related supply chain issues in the past.
“The West Coast ports, especially those in Los Angeles and Long Beach, are a pivotal entry point to the United States that allow American consumers access to global products and essential goods,” said David French, National Retail Federation senior vice president of government relations in a statement Friday. “NRF is closely monitoring the situation in California and has reiterated its concerns to the White House.”
The ILWU declined comment on the matter, referring inquiries to ILWU Local 13. A spokesperson for the local, which represents Los Angeles and Long Beach dockworkers, did not return a call for comment from The Daily on Friday.
The PMA said the worker action undermines shipper confidence in the reliability of the West Coast ports, adding it could fuel further diversions to alternative facilities. Retailers, apparel manufacturers, and many other companies across industries turned to East and Gulf coast ports in more recent years to avoid the slowdown at the West Coast ports during the pandemic. That was followed by continued diversions to port alternatives as businesses sought to avoid further shipping disruptions at the start of contract season last year.
Newell Brands, owner of Coleman, Marmot, and more than 100 other lines, has been in the midst of a supply chain revamp to diversify its use of ports, with more cargo going to places such as the Port of New York/New Jersey. The strategy is part of the company’s Newell Service Network, which will see the consolidation of the company’s distribution centers and the streamlining of supply chains across its business units over the next few years.