Seattle dispute sends jitters as US west coast dockworker talks drag on

A senior official with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) in Seattle said in a statement on Tuesday that the union is “shocked” by action taken by SSA Marine – the largest marine terminal at the Seattle port – while contract negotiations continue between ILWU and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), which represents maritime and port employers on the US West Coast.

The ILWU claims that SSA and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) are working together, aiming to transfer cold ironing work at SSA from ILWU to IAMAW with the involvement of the National Labor Relations Board.

According to the ILWU, its members exclusively perform cold ironing work in the region. However, in a recent letter to President Biden, IAMAW said the ILWU has submitted a proposal to assign cold ironing work at SSA to mechanics affiliated with ILWU. IAMAW is “appalled and dismayed by this unacceptable proposal because the IAMAW has a long history of proudly representing these mechanics” at the SSA terminal.

The ILWU argues that PMA employers “have been using the NLRB as an escape hatch to avoid their obligations under our collective bargaining agreement.”

ILWU Coast Committeeman Cameron Williams said, “We are shocked that SSA is taking such an action, and we are currently regrouping to determine how to proceed in negotiations while we watch an employer violate the very provision of the contract over which the parties were bargaining.”

The agreement between the PMA and ILWU expired on July 1, but talks have continued, with both sides saying they hope to avoid a work stoppage. In July, the parties reached a tentative agreement on health benefits.

Kim Biggar

Kim Biggar started writing in the supply chain sector in 2000, when she joined the Canadian Association of Supply Chain & Logistics Management. In 2004/2005, she was project manager for the Government of Canada-funded Canadian Logistics Skills Committee, which led to her 13-year role as communications manager of the Canadian Supply Chain Sector Council. A longtime freelance writer, Kim has contributed to publications including The Forwarder, 3PL Americas, The Shipper Advocate and Supply Chain Canada.
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