Citing little progress after seven months of negotiations with West Coast dock workers, the Pacific Maritime Association is seeking federal mediation.
Workers with the International Longshore & Warehouse Union have been without a contract at 29 ports since July 1. Since November, management has reported slowdowns are hampering movement of fresh produce and other goods in Seattle, Los Angeles and elsewhere.
“We remain far apart on many issues,” Wade Gates, Pacific Maritime Association president, said Dec. 22 in a news release. “At the same time, the union continues its slowdowns, walk-offs and other actions that are having impacts on shippers, truck drivers and other local workers — with no end in sight. It is clear that the parties need outside assistance to bridge the substantial gap between us.”
The Washington Apple Commission reported export losses of $19 million per week during the holiday season. So far Washington growers have taken the biggest hit from congestion and labor problems at the ports; potato exporters are also affected. But California citrus exporters, for one, are also reporting delays and canceled orders.
Groups representing produce and other industries had already asked congressmen and President Barack Obama to pursue federal mediation. Management’s request was the first by one of the parties.
Productivity at Pacific Northwest ports has been 30% to 40% below normal for the last month and a half, according to the Pacific Maritime Association. The management group has reported slowdowns at Seattle, Tacoma, Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland.
A recent survey by the Journal of Commerce found 60% of shippers have rerouted 2015 cargo away from the West Coast to avoid the problems.
The management group fears continued loss of market share to East Coast and Gulf ports.