Agreement ends West Coast port labor dispute; associations applaud end of slowdown
The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) reached a tentative deal on a new contract late Friday, according to the Associated Press, that would resume operations at ports along the West Coast. The PMA and ILWU had been embroiled in a labor standoff that wrought havoc on the export of agriculture commodities that utilize West Coast ports.
The North American Meat Institute (NAMI) and U.S. Hide, Skin and Leather Association (USHSLA) are gratified to hear the news that negotiations have finally concluded after nine months in the labor dispute between the ILWU and PMA.
The dispute and resulting slowdowns have cost the meat, poultry, hide, skin and leather industries an estimated $85 million a week. While the deal between the two sides is a crucial step to ending this slowdown, the impact will continue to be felt as it will take an estimated 30-45 days to clear the backlog of containers that has built up at ports along the west coast.
NAMI and USHSLA urge ILWU membership to quickly ratify the deal and both parties to pledge to return to regular working conditions immediately during the ratification period.
“The meat and poultry, hide, skin and leather industries have been feeling the pain of this dispute for far too long,” said NAMI President and CEO Barry Carpenter. “It is time to put this crisis behind us and reopen the lines of trade with our partners around the world.”
It is also time that Congress and the White House look for ways to avoid this situation in the future, otherwise the situation will be repeated in both 2017 and 2019 when both coasts’ labor contracts expire once again, the associations said in a statement.
American Soybean Association (ASA) President Wade Cowan noted the association's relief at the conflict's resolution.
"As business owners, soybean farmers count on a smoothly-operating supply chain to stay competitive. The work stoppage on the west coast is something that continues to have ripple effects not only on soybean farms, but within the processing industry, and especially in the livestock industry that represents the top consumer of soybean meal," said Cowan.
In the 2014/2015 crop marketing year, U.S. farmers exported 1.77 billion bushels of soybeans, making soy the country's leading farm export. Soybean meal is also a key feedstock for the livestock and meat export industry, which was disproportionately affected by the stoppage.
"Soybean farmers are proud of the role we play in the nation's agricultural trade, and proud to be a leader on these issues," added Cowan. "Disruptions like the one we saw out west have the potential to throw the country's farm economy into disarray. A devastating impact like that isn't a bargaining chip. It goes without saying that we are relieved to see a resolution to the dispute, and we encourage both parties to ratify this new contract and get back to work as quickly as possible."
Sources: NAMI, ASA