Angry rhetoric in West Coast dockside labor negotiations intensifies
Both PMA and ILWU launch media offensive
By Patrick Burnson, Executive Editor
November 05, 2014
As contract negotiations resume today between the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), a war of words and allegations has escalated in the trade press.
In a statement released this morning, the ILWU said the PMA “dishonestly” accuses the union of breaking a spoken agreement that port operations would continue under the auspices of a temporary contract extension.
According to ILWU spokesman, Craig Merrilees, the union has bargained in good faith despite “pressure tactics” imposed by the PMA over the past six months.
These include the shifting of ocean container chassis away from union crews, and refusing to bargain a training program for longshore workers as terminals become more mechanized.
“Today’s unilateral media blitz by PMA will only delay progress at a critical point in the contract negotiations,” said Merrilees. “Delays at the negotiating table are also reflected in the growing congestion problem at Major West Coast ports.
Major U.S. exporters seem sympathetic to this perspective, noting that a variety of other factors are contributing to the choke points.
“There are many and complex components to the current crisis,” said Peter Friedmann, executive director of the Agriculture Transport Coalition (AgTC).
He noted that the Introduction of mega vessels and the resulting “container dumps,’ are a contributing factor.
“Ships are now carrying 3 times the containers they carried just 5 to 8 years ago, which means fewer port calls, but much greater volumes of containers being delivered at one time, onto terminals not built to handle such volume,” he said.
Friedmann also made the following observations:
· Conversion from the traditional carrier ownership/operations of chassis has created massive confusion and lack of access to chassis. Many feel this chassis transition is the primary cause of supply chain disruption and marine terminals congestion. · Trucking Hours of Service rules reducing driver hours, and unworkable safety-rating rules are creating shortages of truck drivers, who can no longer haul enough cargo during each shift, to make a living. · Truck weight limits and the lack of “heavyweight corridors” to some of our largest ports necessitating more trucks.
At the same time, the AgTC is protesting the practice of terminal operators imposing a “dysfunctional and inequitable” PierPass charge on many shipments entering the gates during the day, and causes major truck back-up’s at certain times in Los Angeles and Long Beach.
“Furthermore, terminal operators are imposing detention/demurrage penalties for keeping containers on the dock for 4 days, when the terminal knows that the container will not be located and ready for a trucker to pick up within that time,” said Friedmann.
West Coast port congestion worsens as management alleges ILWU work “slowdown”
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%.
By Patrick Burnson, Executive Editor
November 03, 2014
Despite assurances that The International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) has been negotiating in good faith for a new contract, the ports of Seattle and Tacoma are reporting labor “slowdowns” in recent weeks.
According to the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), these actions are 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.
As reported in LM, spokesmen for the ILWU maintain that progress is being made in talks with the PMA – now 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 terminal.
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.
Gates would tell LM if other non-labor related events have contributed to the crisis.
“We have been told that ILWU business agents sent the slowdown orders out late last week,” Gates added.
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.”
Lyft’s message to its drivers informing it’s leaving Houston.
In the past weeks we have faced an impossible choice as a community. Over the course of 57 in-person meetings and more than 100 phone conversations since February, we have made repeated attempts to work with Houston officials.
You have spoken up and shown your support at last week's City Council hearing, along with thousands of other Houston residents. In spite of this, city officials have moved forward with onerous ridesharing requirements that essentially treat Lyft the same as a taxi. We are now forced to choose between endorsing rules that we know will make it exceedingly difficult for Lyft's peer-to-peer driver community to thrive, or taking a stand for the right long-term path forward.
As of noon on Nov. 20, Lyft will pause Houston operations.
We know this will affect you and the income you rely on. We understand this decision will place many drivers in a difficult position and hope having this information in advance of November 20th will allow you to begin to plan for a pause in operations.
We started this company with the simple idea that by bringing people together through filling the empty seats in cars, we could make cities smaller and more connected. We won't stop fighting for that vision. If you want to help bring Lyft back to Houston, join me in contacting your Texas state representatives to support ridesharing in the next legislative session:Tags: LyftTaxisregulation
Former IWW General Executive Board chair Frederic Lee died Oct. 23. A member of the IWW for 29 years, FW Lee was also a leading economist, founder of the Heterodox Economics Newsletter, and at the time of his death president-elect of the Association for Evolutionary Economics. His rigorous scholarship, international reputation, and commitment to organizing networks of solidarity helped open a space for alternative approaches in a field long dominated by worshippers of markets and wealth.
Here is PPT's op-ed highlighting the issue of transit deserts:
Don't leave transit deserts high and dry
Here is a report from WESA 90.5 where PPT asks questions about the allocation of county transportation funds: PennDot pedestrian bridge uses PAT funding
PPT presented at County Council on Sept 23 and Oct 30. For our testimony, click here, and here.
On Oct. 30, council members articulated their concern about transit deserts to Port Authority, insisting that a solution needed to be found.
PPT hopes that Port Authority and the County work together to begin to address this serious problem.
The IWW is calling on all artists and graphic designers to come up with new designs for our Union Shop Cards that are issued to workers who decide to organize and affiliate with the IWW (IWW shops, Sole-Proprietors, and Co-ops).
When the IWW recognizes shops they may use the union label on their products and they are issued an IWW Union Shop Card to publicly display. Since the union is beginning to run low on previous, older Shop Cards, the General Executive Board and the General Secretary Treasurer decided it would be in good form to update the Shop Cards and get fresh designs.
The Panama Canal Pilots’ Union, a part of the ILWU’s Panama Division, is an organization representing 256 professional pilots whose main responsibility is the safe transit of vessels through the Panama Canal.
Pilots’ Union recently released a video showing some of the many challenges they will face when the expanded Canal opens to commercial traffic in early 2016. The video also explains some of the meeting rules proposed by the Canal Authority in critical areas, like the Gaillard Cut, and which the pilots have regarded as “irresponsible.” The video features an interview with Captain Rainiero Salas, Secretary General of the Pilots’ Union.
The long-awaited expansion of the Panama Canal has taken a somewhat different course from that initially proposed, according to the Panama Canal Pilots’ Union, and as such, may pose significant threats to the safety of navigation in the Canal.
In 2006, the Canal Authority determined that, in order to continue providing a quality service and to remain competitive, a Canal expansion was needed. A Master Plan was designed, after spending millions of dollars in all sort of studies.
Many of those studies were used to determine the channel dimensions required for vessels of certain length and beam to safely navigate in the narrow channels of the Canal.
“Today, the Canal Authority has radically deviated from their own proposal, without making a single hydrodynamic study to back up such decision,” according to the Union.
Captain Rainiero Salas, Secretary General of the Pilots’ Union, in reference to the proposed lockage procedure that uses tugboats instead of towing locomotives to move vessels inside the locks, said that this system is not as safe and expeditious as the one with locomotives which has been used in the Panama Canal for 100 years.
SF cabdrivers officially join union, take aim at Uber, Lyft, Sidecar
By Jessica Kwong @Jessicagkwong
MIKE KOOZMIN/S.F. EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
San Francisco cabbies passed the threshold of 550 dues-paying members to officially become a member of the National Taxi Workers Alliance. It comes at a time when city taxi drivers face competition from Uber, Lyft and Sidecar.
The San Francisco Taxi Workers Alliance has become in only several months time an official affiliate of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations -- faster than organizing drivers in any other city.
A group of San Francisco cabdrivers in mid-August voted to unionize for the first time in decades. Three weeks ago, the alliance passed the 550 paid members requirement and the affiliation ceremony by the National Taxi Workers Alliance took place Monday, enabling members to access union resources when the taxi industry most needs them.
"The unique thing about the San Francisco alliance is it's the organization that has become the affiliate the quickest," said Biju Mathew, a secretary of the national alliance, which formed in 2012 and within two years gained affiliates in New York, Philadelphia, Montgomery County in Maryland and Austin, Texas.
The official affiliation in San Francisco comes as taxi drivers face increased competition from transportation network companies, the name given by regulator the California Public Utilities Commission to app-based ride services like Uber, Lyft and Sidecar.
"We were in a time of crisis before and now we're at a breaking point," said Beth Powder, an organizer and board member of the San Francisco alliance as well as a DeSoto Cab Co. driver and dispatcher.
The breaking point, according to Powder, occurred last month when Sidecar, Lyft and Uber in that order were given permission to pick up and drop off at San Francisco International Airport, which was previously illegal. That is at the top of the alliance's list of issues to tackle, she said, and official union affiliation could help with solidarity from airport employees.
"For union members at the airport to sit idly by and allow Lyft and Uber to operate is a betrayal against their union brothers and sisters," Powder said. "We've been working with them for decades, so for them to allow this to happen just goes against everything that being a union member stands for."
The roughly 250 alliance members who attended the affiliation ceremony generally agreed that drivers have no choice but to respond to the airport's decision to allow ride services to operate and are working on a course of action to take.
At the urging of the union, the AFL-CIO has begun working on a study zeroing in on how much cab drivers' wages have dropped due to competition from the ride services. Drivers have regularly reported a 30 to 50 percent income reduction for the past year, said Ross Hyman, a researcher for AFL-CIO.
"The basic story is that regulators have a moral authority to ensure that the taxi drivers are able to make a livable wage," he said.
After the airport issue, the union is prioritizing a campaign to persuade the CPUC to change the wording in laws so ride services are regulated the same way cabs are.
"They do the same thing cabs do -- hotels, the airport now and street hails," said Ashwani Aeri, 50, a union founding member and Yellow Cab driver.
Lower on the list is arranging benefits packages for drivers. The union aims to have 1,500 dues-paying members by the end of the year.
If there's trouble in Tacoma, could it spread to Ports of L.A. and Long Beach?
November 04, 04:37 PM
Stacked up port shipping containers PHOTO BY GREG BISHOP VIA FLICKR CREATIVE COMMONS
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The association that represents shipping companies at 29 West Coast ports is accusing the union representing dockworkers of deliberately slowing down work at two Pacific Northwest ports. The union's response: it's a "boldface lie." Tensions appear to be rising in the midst of a long running contract negotiation that affects major ports all along the West Coast.
The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) have been negotiating a new labor contract for the past six months. Throughout the talks, the two sides have worked jointly to reassure those who depend on the ports that neither wants a strike or a lock-out.
When the old labor contract covering 20,000 dockworkers expired on July 1st, cargo kept moving, and the two sides issued a joint statement saying normal operations would continue until a deal was done. But on Monday, the union and the shipping association issued dueling statements regarding events at ports in Seattle and Tacoma, Washington.
The PMA accused the ILWU of "orchestrating slowdowns" and reducing productivity at terminals in Tacoma and Seattle by 40 to 60 percent. “In Tacoma, the ILWU is not filling orders for skilled workers, including straddle carrier operators who are critical to terminal operations,” said PMA spokesman Wade Gates in a written statement. “This is like sending out a football team without the receivers or running backs."
Gates accused the ILWU of "reneging on an agreement" to keep normal operations going while contract negotiations continue.
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Los Angeles gets $36 million to help people find jobs
"This is a bold-face lie," the ILWU responded in its own statement, pointing out that the two sides have disagreed for decades on what "normal operations" look like, so agreeing to maintain them would be difficult.
“Congestion at key ports is the result of three factors – some of which is from employer mismanagement, according to industry experts,” said ILWU spokesperson Craig Merrilees, who pointed out challenges including a shortage of truck drivers, truck chassis, and rail car capacity to haul cargo away from the docks.
The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are battling cargo backlogs and delays for at least the first two reasons, but no port official would say the labor force is slowing down. The shipping companies used to manage the supply of chassis - the flatbed carriers that attach cargo to trucks - but they recently turned those operations over to private leasing companies. The transition has been "bumpy," according to a spokesman for the Port of Los Angeles.
The Ports of LA and Long Beach handle 70 percent of West Coast cargo and are adjusting to the calls of much larger container ships. When cargo containers are unloaded and a chassis isn't there waiting to carry it away, the containers are stacked on docks, adding to the backlog.
"If the work slowdowns spread to Southern California, the impact could be devastating," writes Bill Mongelluzzo, Senior Editor of the Journal of Commerce.
The congestion comes at the tail end of peak shipping season, when retailers are moving goods into place for holiday shopping. Nick Vyas, director of the Center for Global Supply Chain Management at USC said a lot of holiday goods have already moved through the ports, but if a store chain discovers that it needs to order more of a certain product to meet growing demand, it could face problems.
"These adjustments require a last minute push," Vyas told KPCC. "By having congestion at the ports, it pretty much impedes their ability to react to those market sensitive data."
ILWU calls slowdown accusations at Seattle, Tacoma ‘bold-faced lie’ in coastwise contract negotiations-Bosses Playing Hardball
ILWU calls slowdown accusations at Seattle, Tacoma ‘bold-faced lie’ in coast wide contract negotiations-Bosses Playing Hardball
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union late Monday rejected accusations that they were engaging in a concerted effort to slow down cargo-handling operations at the ports of Seattle and Tacoma, saying waterfront employers’ charges are a “bold-faced lie.”
The dueling press statements by the PMA earlier Monday and the ILWU later in the day are a disconcerting development and could indicate there are serious problems in the coastwide contract negotiations that have been underway since early May. The ILWU has been working without a contract since July 1.
PMA earlier in the day released a statement — the first solo statement by either party since May — saying the ILWU initiated orchestrated slowdowns in Seattle and Tacoma that reduced productivity by 40 to 60 percent. The PMA, which negotiates and administers the West Coast waterfront contract, said the ILWU’s actions violated a joint agreement the employers and the union announced last summer that normal cargo-handling operations would proceed until a new contract is negotiated.
“No such agreement was ever made, nor could it be made given the parties’ historic disagreement regarding the definition of ‘normal operations,’” the ILWU stated in its release. The ILWU said the definition of normal operations has been the subject of arbitrations for decades.
Both sides have been tight-lipped so far about the issues that have prevented them from reaching a contract settlement for the past four months since the previous contract expired. However, the ILWU statement may hint at two of the issues.
The union accused employers of “pressure tactics which include, among other things, secretly trying to shift away thousands of ocean container chassis traditionally handled and maintained by longshore workers and refusing to bargain a training program that properly trains longshore workers and prevents non-qualified workers from operating dangerous equipment.”
Maintaining jurisdiction, especially over chassis maintenance and repair, was a major issue in contract negotiations two years ago between the International Longshoremen’s Association and USMX on the East Coast. It appears now to be equally as explosive an issue in the West Coast negotiations.
Training longshoremen to work the new jobs created by automation, and repairing the sophisticated equipment that will move containers throughout the yard with very little human intervention, also appears to be a key issue. The TraPac terminal in Los Angeles is the first on the West Coast to begin to automate its operations, and that company has accused the ILWU in Southern California of hard-timing its operations to force favorable manning requirements.
This exchange of press statements by the PMA and ILWU is a setback in the contract negotiations.
“Today’s unilateral media blitz by PMA will only delay progress at a critical point in the contract negotiations. Delays at the negotiating table are also reflected in the growing congestion problem at major West Coast ports,” the ILWU said.
The union said port congestion, which has crippled operations in Los Angeles-Long Beach for months, is due to chassis shortages and dislocations under a new chassis model implemented by shipping lines, a shortage of truck drivers in the harbor and a shortage of rail car capacity that has caused containers to back up on the docks.
“PMA’s media offensive is designed to smear the union and to deflect responsibility from a growing congestion problem that is plaguing major West Coast ports,” the ILWU said.
If there is a silver lining in the verbal sparring that took place on Monday, the PMA and the ILWU each stated that they want to continue negotiating in good faith. “The ILWU has called for talks to resume on Wednesday,” the ILWU stated.
Contact Bill Mongelluzzo at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter: @billmongelluzzo
Dishonest media offensive by PMA jeopardizes contract negotiations and deflects from a growing congestion problem
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Monday, the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), which represents over 70 multinational ocean carriers and maritime companies in contract negotiations with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), began a media offensive against the ILWU. PMA’s media offensive is designed to smear the union and to deflect responsibility from a growing congestion problem that is plaguing major West Coast ports.
PMA’s press statement dishonestly accuses the ILWU of breaking a supposed agreement “that normal operations at West Coast ports would continue until an agreement could be reached.” This is a bold-faced lie. No such agreement was ever made, nor could it be made given the parties’ historic disagreement regarding the definition of “normal operations” – a disagreement that has been the subject of arbitrations for decades. PMA also falsely states that agreement to temporary contract extensions is standard practice.
The ILWU-PMA contract expired on July 1, 2014. Since mid-May, the parties have met to negotiate a new agreement regularly. During this 6-month period, the union has consistently come to the table in good faith despite PMA’s early pressure tactics, which include, among other things, secretly trying to shift away thousands of ocean container chassis traditionally handled and maintained by longshore workers and refusing to bargain a training program that properly trains longshore workers and prevents non-qualified workers from operating dangerous equipment.
Today’s unilateral media blitz by PMA will only delay progress at a critical point in the contract negotiations. Delays at the negotiating table are also reflected in the growing congestion problem at major West Coast ports.
“Congestion at key ports is the result of three factors – some of which is from employer mismanagement, according to industry experts,” said ILWU spokesperson Craig Merrilees. The three factors are:
- A change in the business model used to maintain and allocate truck chassis. The employer’s decision to change their business model is preventing chassis systems from being delivered to the right place at the right time. The Journal of Commerce reported on Oct. 10, “Chassis shortages and dislocations are believed to be the single biggest contributor to marine terminal congestion in Los Angeles-Long Beach.”
- A shortage of truck drivers who are needed to move containers at ports has left shippers scrambling to fill vacant positions and haul containers to distribution facilities. On Oct. 13, the JOC quoted an industry insider who said, “Frustrated by port congestion, drayage drivers increasingly looking for other jobs – both in and out of trucking.”
- A shortage of rail car capacity has led to delays in moving containers from the docks to distant locations via rail. On October 31, Progressive Railroading outlined the issue in an article titled “Rail-car backlog reached record level in 3Q.” Rail capacity has been stretched to the limit by additional shipments of crude oil.
The ILWU has called for talks to resume on Wednesday.
Israel: High Court of Israel petitioned over struggle of Palestine workers in W. Bank settlement workplace
Check out this newly-revised guide on how to effectively write for the Industrial Worker, official newspaper of the Industrial Workers of the World.
Third quarter net income for Fort Smith-based ArcBest was $19.618 million, well ahead of the $13.982 million in the same quarter of 2013, and thanks in large part to an almost 10% gain in ABF Freight revenue.
Per share earnings of 72 cents missed the consensus estimate of 75 cents. Excluding a one-time charge for a pension settlement, the per share earnings were 74 cents.
Click here to read more at The City Wire.Issues: Freight