As contract negotiations continue between the 10,500-member International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Assn. (PMA), which represents 29 West Coast ports, the ILWU has initiated a work 'slowdown' to turn up the pressure.
The slowdown affects Stevedoring Services of America (SSA) and its terminal at the Port of Long Beach. The job action began September 16 and has largely brought work at that terminal to a standstill, said PMA.
ILWU's slowdown is fanning fears of a port strike, which could affect a significant amount of freight hauled by truckers. West Coast ports handled $260 billion of waterborne commerce in 1999, more than 7% of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product, and the amount is expected to top more than $300 billion this year. Port cargo supports more than 3.3 million jobs and amounts to approximately 42% of U.S. waterborne trade.
Waiting in the wings of this dispute are continuing efforts to organize the 50,000 mostly independent truckers that haul freight to and from those ports. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters allied itself in 2000 with the ILWU, the International Longshoremen's Assn. and the Communications Workers of America in an effort to organize all U.S. port truck drivers.