2 Long Beach Port terminals close amid labor negotiations

A pair of cargo terminals at the Port of Long Beach were closed Monday amid continued concerns about protracted labor negotiations between shippers and West Coast dockworkers.

Mario Cordero, executive director of the Port of Long Beach, issued a statement insisting the port as a whole was "open and operating" Friday, "although two of its six container terminals are closed for the day shift."

"Operators of those terminals decided to close based on operational needs, and will reopen for the evening shift," Cordero said. "All other port container terminals are open, and we continue to monitor terminal activity.

"The San Pedro Bay ports are the nation's most important gateway for international trade, and the national economy depends on the goods and materials moving through the port complex."

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The terminals that closed for the day Monday were Total Terminals International and Pacific Container Terminal. The general manager of Pacific Container Terminal told Reuters the facility was closed for normal operational reasons that were unrelated to the ongoing labor situation.

Dockworkers represented by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union have been in labor talks with the shippers industry group, Pacific Maritime Association, for months. The union's contract expired on July 1, 2022.

A new labor agreement would cover more than 22,000 longshore workers at 29 U.S. West Coast ports, including Los Angeles and Long Beach.

But while ILWU workers have not gone on strike, the PMA has accused the union of engaging in work slowdowns, leading to rolling closures of container terminals.

The association issued another statement Monday saying such slowdowns are "forcing retailers, manufacturers and other shippers to shift cargo away from the West Coast in favor of ports on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Much of the diverted cargo may never return to the West Coast."

In early April, PMA alleged a worker shortage shut down the twin ports for two days, but ILWU attributed the dockworker shortage to union members attending its monthly meeting and observing religious holidays.

ILWU stated last week that its workers risked and lost their lives during the pandemic to ensure goods and other necessary supplies reached stores, hospitals and consumers.

"Despite this fact, from pre-pandemic levels through 2022, the percentage of ILWU wages and benefits continued to drop compared to PMA rising revenues," ILWU said in a statement.

The union stated it is "committed to bargaining a contract that is fair and equitable," including wages and benefits that "reflect the dedication of the ILWU workforce and its contributions to the shipping industry's success."