There’s a lot of “what ifs” going through the minds of industry stakeholders on when a contract will be reached between East and Gulf Coast dockworkers and the United States Maritime Alliance (USMX), and if a contract is not reached between those parties, what could the fallout be?

Negotiations for a new contract for dockworkers at East and Gulf Coast ports continue (negotiations started February 2023), with the current contract set to expire at the end of September.

Some main discussion points between the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA), the union representing dockworkers, and the USMX are labor provisions, wages, benefits, automation, and working conditions.

What’s Happened Since February 2023 to Now

February 2023
Negotiations between the ILA and the USMX began.

March 2023
Negotiations between the parties stall, as ILA President Harold Daggett tells local unions to discontinue local negotiations “until further notice.”

Harold J. Daggett has been the ILA President since he was elected in July 2011. Last July, he was re-elected to his fourth four-year term as the leader of this union, according to the ILA Union website.

November 2023

At an educational conference for some union members, ILA President Daggett toted their plans for the possibility of a coast-wide strike in October 2024 if an agreement is not reached. He also said there is no chance of extending the current contract past the expiration date.

Daggett pledged that they would hold firm and “not take a back seat to anyone.”

February 2024

ILA President Daggett said in a letter in early February viewed by the Journal of Commerce, that he wants the union’s local chapters to resume negotiations with their respective port employers.

Additionally, the letter stated the locals have a “firm deadline” of May 17  to complete these local negotiations, and the deadline will “not be extended.” This leaves just under five months to settle on a master contract before the end of September contract expires.

Déjà vu?

Of course, with how the contract talks on the West Coast played out, some wonder if something similar will happen with this ILA and USMX contract.

Back in July 1st, 2022, the contract between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Administration (PMA) expired. It took almost a full year from when the contract expired, for the new contract to reach a tentative deal – in June 2023 – and was officially ratified on August 31, 2023.

During those contract negotiations, some shippers started to divert some of their cargo from the West Coast ports and moved it to ports on the East and/or Gulf coasts. Eventually, some of that cargo shifted back to the West Coast ports – some of it due to the challenges with using the Panama Canal and the disruption out in the Red Sea.

Looking Ahead

If you are a shipper and wondering what you can do to mitigate potential disruptions to your East Coast freight… some things to keep in mind are to consider your options, be proactive, and stay informed.

Should you have any questions regarding this and how it could impact your shipments, please reach out to our team today.

Additionally, we have our weekly market updates that provide relevant freight news, updates, developments across the industry, and more.

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