LA Truck Strike Ends, West Coast Cargo Flows Remain Slow

Last week, on November 21st, port truck and drayage drivers at the Port of Los Angeles ended a weeklong strike. The drivers had been picketing the trucking companies of Total Transportation Services, Pacific 9 Transportation, and Green Fleet Systems as of November 13th, and expanded the protests to include as well as local rail yards serviced by Pacer Cartage and Harbor Rail Transport (HRT). These protests are the latest in a serious of efforts by drayage truckers at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to bring attention to the classification of the truckers as independent contractors instead of employees. The strikes come at a sensitive time in the major negotiations between the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union on a long-term contract for longshoreman at West Coast ports.

The PMA, which manages 29 West Coast ports, and the ILWU have been negotiating a long-term contract since the previous labor agreement expired on July 1st. Both sides had stated publicly that they would continue working and bargaining in good faith, without stoppage or slowdowns that would have major national economic impacts. However, negotiations have slowed in recent weeks amid accusations by both sides. On Monday, November 3rd, the PMA issued a statement that the ILWU slowdowns caused a 40 to 60 percent reduction in terminal productivity the prior weekend. The union maintained that such accusations were a pressuring tactic with a goal of impacting their negotiations.

Currently, the PMA estimates that productivity in some ports on the West Coast has declined 30 percent. Major business organizations and trade associations, including TIA, have requested that President Obama appoint a federal mediator to the PMA-ILWU negotiations. Congestion at the ports has caused some container lines to announce plans to implement congestion surcharges of as much as $1,000 per 40-foot container at Pacific Coast Ports.

TIA has joined a broad coalition of national trade associations who are urging action on the Port negotiations. This coalition is working to bring attention to the serious impacts that a slowdown of West Coast imports and exports will have on the national economy as the Holiday season kicks into gear.