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Longshore talks, cargo diversion concerns expected Port of Los Angeles topics

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While tensions between the longshore union and employers remain high this week, Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka is set to provide his monthly update on issues facing the nation’s busiest shipping hub on Tuesday, June 13.

The lagging labor neogiations, though, are not the only issue dominating the supply chain.

Cargo in the post-pandemic era has dipped significantly and the outlook for what is usually a busy peak season — when fall goods begin to flow in — appears modest for 2023.

Seroka will announce May cargo numbers at the news conference. The neighboring Port of Long Beach is also expected to release its May figures on Tuesday.

The topic of the sputtering longshore labor talks has been a regular feature of the monthly cargo update meetings for the past year, though it’s not known whether Seroka will address the situation at length on Tuesday or provide any new details about the ongoing process.

Contract talks are now in their 13th month, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has called on the White House to intervene to help break the impasse.

Coupled with a drop in consumer spending, causing fewer containers to flow in, cargo is now being diverted to other ports on the Gulf and East coasts as companies try to avoid any potential work flow impacts the labor stalemate may be causing on West Coast docks.

Talks in San Francisco continue between both sides. Longshore contracts cover 22,000 dockworkers at 29 ports along the West Coast.

The Pacific Maritime Association, representing employers, accused the union of continuing to withhold lashers from terminals at the Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex this week.

Lashers are union workers who are trained to “lash” cargo in place — and unlash cargo being unloaded — at the ports.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union did not have any comment on Monday, but has denied such actions in the previous days..

“(Sunday, June 11) at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the ILWU resumed its past practice of withholding lashers from terminals at the nation’s largest port complex,” a PMA news release stated, “resulting in vessels having to miss their scheduled departures. The union also did not fill orders for labor from several terminal operators despite the fact that they were placed properly and on time.”

But officials at the ports of LA and Long Beach said all of their terminals were operating, and cargo was moving, on Monday.

Bloomberg News contributed to this article. 

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