Federal Mediators Join Labor Talks at West Coast Ports

Federal Mediators Join Labor Talks at West Coast Ports

The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service announced Tuesday it will intervene in labor negotiations between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) after the union joined the PMA in inviting federal mediation.

While the development does not mean an immediate return to normalcy at the ports, a mediator has proven pivotal in past contract disputes.

“In response to a joint request for assistance from the parties, collective bargaining between ILWU and PMA representatives will continue as soon as possible under the auspices of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS),” said Acting Director Allison Beck. “We are prepared and ready to render prompt assistance.
Deputy Director Scot Beckenbaugh, a senior FMCS mediator with extensive collective bargaining experience in this industry, has been assigned to help the parties bring these important negotiations to a mutually acceptable resolution.”

As is Agency practice, the FMCS is not releasing information regarding future meeting dates and locations. In addition, the FMCS will have no further comment at this time regarding the status or substance of the negotiations.

Major sporting goods trade associations have been urging the Obama Administration to impose federal mediation on the talks since November, but Administration officials had declined to intervene, saying they were confident the two sides could resolve their differences. The two sides began negotiating a new contract in May and have been working without one since July 1.

“We support federal mediation in this situation and hope that a new participant in the process can help both parties reach a resolution to this dispute,” NSGA President & CEO Matt Carlson said Wednesday. “Federal mediators have a reputation of helping parties resolve their differences, and we look forward to the day when goods move smoothly through West Coast ports once again.”

The PMA requested federal mediation Dec. 22, but the FMCS can only intervene if invited by both sides or if the president imposes federal mediation under a provision of the Taft-Hartley Act designed to keep ports running pending negotiations.

On Jan. 2, the PMA renewed its allegations that the ILWU was slowing down the already congested ports by withholding crane operators and other skilled labor needed to move cargo containers at Southern California ports that handle a significant percentage of consumer products imported from Asia.