Once again, there are rumblings of discontent coming from the labor talks taking place on the US West Coast. As we have yet to receive any formal statements from the ILWU, we’re sifting through stories, rumors, and murmurings to try and build a clear picture of the situation to avoid unnecessary frustration like we saw last month when workers observing Good Friday were mistakenly accused of taking labor action.
What we know for sure is that some workers, as stated by the ILWU, have stopped coming to work in an effort to express frustration with a negotiation that has dragged on for over a year. Because that year was the grand finale to a pandemic that saw carriers and terminals reporting record profits, the workers are justifiably waiting to find out what reward they’ll reap from the hazardous, dangerous, socially-distanced, economy-supporting job they did.
Unfortunately for the dockworkers, despite understandable frustration, the world is watching the port systems after last year’s massive delays and vessel queues that caused a marked shift from the US West Coast to the East Coast, a place currently experiencing massive air quality issues due to Canadian wildfires. With Canadian West Coast unions talking about a strike authorization vote tomorrow, the southern ports in San Pedro Bay, CA, need to be ready to manage the overflow cargo unless they time a strike to coincide.
In such a precarious situation, there’s the danger of rumors and fears taking over to drive the cargo to other ports, but that’s not a cure-all for delays. The ports on the West Coast are singular in their ability to handle massive amounts of cargo. While there might be less traffic in the East and Gulf Coast ports, a deluge of rerouted cargo will build delays faster than expected since those ports are accustomed to moving smaller quantities of cargo. Even with delays, no port complex in the country can make up ground as fast as the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. We expect it to take the next few months to sort out, and in the interim, we should expect intermittent delays and work stoppages.
Regardless of how the next few months of negotiations shake out, this situation reiterates the need for shippers to have a strong, experienced logistics partner working on their behalf. Edward J. Zarach & Associates has a worldwide network of global partners creating custom-tailored solutions for your most complex cargo needs. Contact us today and learn how we can build resilience and efficiency into your supply chain even when disruption occurs.