Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su traveled to the West Coast yesterday for meetings with the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU). Following conversations today, the PMA and ILWU have reportedly agreed to a "cooling off period" in order to return to negotiations.
This morning, RILA released a statement welcoming the Acting Secretary's engagement and encouraging the administration to help resolve the dispute and put the negotiations over the finish line.
The ports of Oakland, Los Angeles, and Long Beach reported relatively normal operations, and Seattle and Tacoma seemed to improve as well.
This comes after an eventful weekend of labor shortages, slowdowns, and other labor actions at West Coast ports—accompanied by the PMA and ILWU trading jabs via press statements. Also, following repeated requests by RILA and other industry stakeholders for the Biden administration to help expedite negotiations, Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, sent a letter to Acting Secretary Su explicitly asking her plans to help facilitate an agreement.
The primary sticking point remaining in negotiations centers on wages. ILWU had reportedly scaled down its earlier ask of annual pay hikes that amounted to a roughly 100% wage increase over the 6-year contract, but the parties are said to be still very far apart on the issue.
In separate but related news yesterday, ILWU Canada released results that members voted overwhelmingly (99.24%) last week to authorize a strike should one be deemed necessary. While only a vote and not an actual strike, the result casts uncertainty on the Canadian ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert—two other key West Coast gateways.
RILA continues to track the fluid situation on the West Coast and is in touch with port stakeholders as well as lawmakers and Biden administration officials on a daily basis.