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Port Backlog Impacts Grow as Negotiations Continue in West Coast Port Labor Dispute

Monday, February 9, 2015

(North American Meat Institute)

Meat and poultry products destined for export from West Coast ports continue to pile up in commercial freezers around the country as the west coast port labor dispute drags on. NAMI now estimates the cost to meat and poultry companies losing sales or facing unanticipated port charges is in excess of $40 million per week on top of initial losses, which exceeded $50 million. Also, lost hides and skins export sales are estimated at an additional $40-45 million per week. NAMI is continuing to work with other organizations to develop coordinated communications to the President, about action we believe he must take in the event that the threatened shutdowns occur. Both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate are planning hearings on the West Coast port disruption and its impact on the entire nation's economy. NAMI is also continuing to do media interviews about the situation and its impact.

Meanwhile, The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) made a contract offer to the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) to replace the pact that expired on July 1, 2014, and to resolve the ongoing labor dispute, which covers more than 20,000 employees at 29 west coast ports. Under the proposed contract, the hourly base compensation rate for ILWU workers would rise from $35.68 to $40.68 over five years, which represents a 14 percent wage increase. Currently, longshoremen make an average annual salary of $147,000. The offer also safeguards the ILWU's Cadillac health benefits, which feature no worker premiums, no co-pays and no deductibles for in-network benefits, costing employers $35,000 per worker per year. The current maximum ILWU pension benefits would increase 11.1 percent, from $79,920 annually to $88,800 per year. Further, the ILWU would hold jurisdiction over the maintenance and repair of truck chassis, winning a key demand.

The PMA urged ILWU leadership to consider this contract seriously and stressed the deteriorating situation at the ports, which is approaching complete gridlock. Meanwhile, the ILWU has insisted on additional changes to the process used for selecting arbitrators, by requesting the ability to remove arbitrators unilaterally who rule against them. ILWU President Robert McEllrath noted that the remaining issues can be easily resolved and urged the PMA to keep ports open during the final stages of the negotiations.

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