A shortage of West Coast port workers has forced the busiest U.S. ocean trade gateway to shut on Friday, after months of strained labor negotiations between the dock workers union and their employers.
Workers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach on Thursday began withholding labor, which was needed to load and unload cargo, as part of a coordinated action by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), according to the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), which represents employers.
“The action by the union has effectively shut down the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach,” the PMA said in a statement.
Operators at the Port of Long Beach decided to temporarily close four of the seaport’s six terminals when workers failed to show up on Friday morning, port spokesman Lee Peterson said, adding that regular operations at the seaport were expected to resume on Saturday.
Port of Los Angeles officials were communicating with the ILWU and PMA, along with federal, state and local officials, to “support a return to normal operations,” said the group, which is managed by a unit of the City of Los Angeles.
A representative of the ILWU Local 13, which represents workers at both the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports, declined to comment.
Union workers at the ports have been on the job without an employment contract since the previous agreement expired on July 1, 2022, and the labor dispute has forced major retailers to shift cargo to East and Gulf Coast ports to avoid disruptions.
The ILWU and PMA have recently said they reached a tentative agreement on key negotiation sticking points and were committed to resolving the contract matter expeditiously as the administration of President Joe Biden continued to meet with the groups to help facilitate a deal.