Longshore Union Initiates Orchestrated Work Slowdowns, Crippling Pacific Northwest Ports – November 5, 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contacts: Wade Gates, PMA, (415) 591-4048, [email protected]
Steve Getzug, (310) 633-9444, [email protected]
LONGSHORE UNION INITIATES ORCHESTRATED WORK SLOWDOWNS,
CRIPPLING PACIFIC NORTHWEST PORTS
Actions by ILWU During Coast-Wide Contract Negotiations Threaten
Ports of Seattle and Tacoma in Midst of Holiday Shipping Season
San Francisco, CA (November 3, 2014) — The International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) has
initiated orchestrated slowdowns at the Pacific Northwest ports of Seattle and Tacoma, severely
impacting many of the largest terminals during the peak holiday shipping season. The two ports handle
an estimated 16% of containerized cargo on the West Coast.
The work actions come as the ILWU and its employer group counterpart, the Pacific Maritime
Association (PMA), are in the sixth month of negotiations for a new contract covering nearly 13,600
workers at 29 ports along the West Coast, from California to Washington. Initially, the PMA and ILWU
set a goal of reaching a new agreement in July.
Once the contract expired on July 1st, the parties agreed to continue negotiating in good faith, and to
resolve their differences at the table. The PMA and ILWU specifically stated that they were mindful of
the broader economic implications of these negotiations. As such, they agreed that normal operations
at West Coast ports would continue until an agreement could be reached.
“Now, the ILWU has reneged on that agreement,” said Wade Gates, a spokesperson for the PMA.
The ILWU initially targeted select terminals in Tacoma on Friday, October 31, and expanded to more
terminals in Tacoma and the Port of Seattle throughout the weekend. The slowdowns began within
hours of the end of the latest negotiating session on a new coast wide contract.
The PMA has found that the slowdowns at these Pacific Northwest ports have resulted in terminal
productivity being reduced by an average of 40 to 60%. For example, terminals that typically move 25-35
containers per hour were moving only 10-18, according to statistics compiled by PMA, which tracks
historical productivity based on the number of containers moved per hour for each vessel at the same
After several days of crippled productivity, employers demanded that union leaders return to normal
workplace practices. When the ILWU refused by continuing its severe slowdowns, employers were
forced to begin sending workers home, paid for time worked, mid-shift on Sunday.
“In Tacoma, the ILWU is not filling orders for skilled workers, including straddle carrier operators who
are critical to terminal operations,” said Gates. “This is like sending out a football team without the
receivers or running backs. You can’t run the plays without them,” he said.
“We have been told that ILWU business agents sent the slowdown orders out late last week,” Gates
For generations, the ILWU leadership has long disputed the existence of slowdowns. The Los Angeles
Times, in an article The Art of the Slowdown, exposed the long-refined practice which the union has
historically used to try to gain leverage in contract negotiations. Often, the ILWU will make false or
exaggerated claims of safety issues in order to justify unilateral actions that have repeatedly been found
to be in violation of the coast-wide contract.
In fact, the ILWU has refused to agree to a temporary contract extension – which it has agreed to during
past negotiations – because such an extension would give both parties access to the well-established
grievance procedure that has served the waterfront for decades. Jointly appointed arbitrators have
continually found slowdowns on the waterfront to be impermissible, but with no contract extension in
place, employers cannot access the arbitration process.
“We are calling upon the ILWU to cease its slowdowns and agree to a temporary contract extension
while we negotiate a new contract,” Gates said. “The Union’s agreement to a contract extension would
give confidence to shippers and the general public, and would prove our willingness to solve our
differences at the negotiating table, rather than by staging illegal actions at the docks.”
“The PMA remains committed to good-faith bargaining until an agreement can be reached,” Gates said.
“It is extremely difficult to have meaningful negotiations under the current conditions in which the ILWU
is deliberately slowing productivity in order to pressure our member companies. We urge the ILWU to
re-think their slowdown strategy, which has the potential to cause great damage to the local, regional
and national economies. It is essential that we resolve our differences at the negotiating table, rather
than on the job site.”