L.A., Long Beach Ports Close for Second Day on Labor Shortage

Notices Sent to Trucking Community Indicated Closure
Port of Long Beach
The Port of Long Beach. (Tim Rue/Bloomberg News)

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The largest container gateway into the U.S. remained closed April 7 as a shortage of dockworker labor that halted operations April 6 goes into a second day.

But by the evening of April 7, normal operations resumed at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, as dockworkers returned to container terminals for the Friday evening shift.

Earlier, the Pacific Maritime Association said in a statement, “ILWU Local 13 withheld labor again for this morning’s shift. The action by the Union has effectively shut down the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.”

The terminal closures came as cargo volumes have dropped sharply at the Southern California ports from peak levels a year ago. The threat of disruptions and delays during contract talks has spurred retailers, manufacturers and other importers to avoid potential shipping snarls by diverting goods to the East and Gulf coasts.

The National Retail Federation said it had renewed a call to the White House to engage in the labor negotiations and prevent disruptions to cargo flows.

“The West Coast ports, especially those in Los Angeles and Long Beach, are a pivotal entry point to the United States that allow American consumers access to global products and essential goods,” Senior Vice President of Government Relations David French said. 

The White House declined to comment. Stephen Lyons, the Biden administration’s supply chain envoy, said that the situation seems to be due to “temporary, localized friction” and “both parties at the national level are committed to continue negotiation with the objective of an agreed-upon contract.”

Negotiations over a new labor contract for West Coast dockworkers are under increasing strain. The PMA, which represents ocean carriers and terminal operators in contract negotiations that have been ongoing since last May, said while some workers showed up the evening of April 6, a majority of the jobs went unfulfilled. “The workers who did show up were released because there was not a full complement of ILWU members to operate the terminals.”

The closures coincided with a changeover in leadership as Gary Herrera, who previously served as vice president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union’s Local 13 chapter, took over for outgoing President Ramon Ponce de Leon.

The ILWU declined to comment. The ILWU’s local chapter said its members “remain willing and able to work” and that some longshore workers took the opportunity to celebrate the religious holidays on April 7.

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