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Nov.24, 2014

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NOVEMBER 24.2014 COVER STORY 10 THE JOURNAL OF COMMERCE THE PORT OF Portland, Oregon, is issuing a challenge to the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association: Revamp the col- lective bargaining model that has been in existence at West Coast ports for the past 80 years because it isn't working. "Is the current collective bargaining relationship between the PMA and ILWU sustainable? The grain trade answered that question for us. No," Port of Portland Chief Commercial Offi cer Sam Ruda told the Foot- wear Distributors and Retailers of America annual conference in Long Beach in late October. Ruda's observations couldn't be more timely. In fact, they were made during a period of relative labor calm on the water- front. A month after Ruda's insights — and nearly fi ve months after the previous ILWU contract expired — retailers and other cargo interests are seeing their worst fears come true. Go-slow work tactics by the ILWU, which started in the Pacifi c Northwest early this month, have spread to every major West Coast port, exacerbating the congestion that has resulted in some benefi cial cargo owners waiting a month or more to have their goods make it off Los Angeles-Long Beach docks. According to employers, the ILWU is shorting terminals of skilled longshoremen who operate important cargo-handling equipment in the container yards. The tactics, ostensibly tied to the contract nego- tiations, have crippled yards that already are operating at maximum capacity. Employers in Southern California also say the ILWU has been conducting unnecessary and costly secondary safety checks, further exacerbat- ing the congestion problems. If longshoremen were working under a contract, employers could seek arbitra- tion under the contract's grievance machin- ery, but the grievance machinery itself With West Coast labor talks dragging and patience running thin, some stakeholders say it's time for the ILWU and PMA to go back to the drawing board FIXING By Bill Mongelluzzo

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