Dozens of longshore workers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have been ordered back to work after they walked off the job Monday to show support for striking truck drivers. The short walk-out drew greater scrutiny because the dockworkers are part of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), which is involved in strenuous negotiations with the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), which represents port operators. A federal arbitrator sent the dockworkers back to their posts on Tuesday morning, ruling the walk-out violated contractual provisions.
About 20,000 West coast dockworkers across 29 ports are affected by ILWU/PMA negotiations. Nearly half of all container cargo – including some promotional products – that comes into and out of the U.S. passes through these ports. Even a 10-day port strike would cost the U.S. economy $21 billion and 169,000 jobs, according to trade group reports.
Earlier this week, officials from the ILWU and PMA announced a pause in negotiations. The two sides are debating wages, jurisdictional claims and health care costs, among other issues. “During this break, starting at 8:00 a.m. on Tuesday, July 8, through 8:00 a.m. on Friday, July 11, the parties have agreed to extend the previous six-year contract, which expired last week,” the ILWU and PMA said in a statement. It’s expected, as negotiations linger on, that dockworkers will soon execute planned slowdowns that will reduce cargo movement.
Meanwhile, the striking truck drivers – backed by Teamsters Local 848 – argue they’re being wrongly classified as contract workers by their employers. Contract workers tend to receive smaller salaries and fewer benefits compared to regular employees. The drivers work for three companies that transport cargo to and from the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports.