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Powerful union threatens to bring Gulf and East Coast shipping to a halt after automation dispute


Daily Caller News Foundation

The union representing around 45,000 dockworkers on the East and Gulf Coasts canceled contract negotiations that were set to start this week with a group representing the ports, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

The International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) canceled the planned negotiations with the United States Maritime Alliance (USMX) after it was discovered that a terminal operator at one of the unionized ports in Mobile, Alabama, used autonomous equipment to process trucks, which the ILA says violated their current contract, according to the WSJ. Following the cancellation, ILA President Harold Daggett told workers that they should be prepared to strike on October 1, when their current contract ends, possibly shutting down ports across the whole East and Gulf Coasts.

“Harold Daggett is again alerting all locals to be prepared for a strike on October 1st,” an ILA spokesman said, according to the WSJ. The union has said that it will not resume negotiations until the issue at the terminal is resolved.

Daggett has been critical of the growing use of automated machines to move and stack shipping containers on the dock, calling out the Biden administration for being silent on increasing global automation, according to the WSJ. The scheduled contract negotiations were to determine wages for workers across the coast.

“APM Terminals is committed to upholding our agreements and fostering a safe and efficient working environment for all employees,” APM Terminals, an operator for shipping company Maersk, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “We remain in full compliance with the ILA/USMX Master Contract. We are disappointed that the ILA has chosen to make selected details of ongoing negotiations public in an effort to create additional leverage for their other demands. We will continue to engage with all stakeholders, including the ILA, to address their concerns. APM Terminals, through the representation of the USMX, looks forward to resuming constructive negotiations with the ILA to find mutually beneficial solutions that support the future of our industry.”

Ports on the West Coast of the U.S. had a similarly contentious union contract negotiation in 2023, with a new contract for 29 ports with higher wages, pensions and health benefits being ratified at the end of August of that year. The Biden administration inserted itself into those negotiations in June to help broker a deal and avoid a strike.

The ILA and the USMX did not immediately respond to a request to comment from the DCNF.

Featured Image Credit: Flickr/Department of Labor Shawn T Moore

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Republished with permission from Daily Caller News Foundation

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