- International Longshore and Warehouse Union leaders dismissed fears of disruption related to upcoming contract negotiations in a pre-recorded interview released Tuesday.
- "We've been doing this over 85 years, and we will sit down, we will get an agreement," said Willie Adams, ILWU international president.
- Adams and Frank Ponce De Leon, ILWU coast committeeman, joined Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka for the waterside interview, which rolled during the port's monthly press briefing.
Labor leaders minced no words in their conversation with Seroka. The message?
"Everybody out there, just tone it down and stop all the rhetoric," Adams said. "We have been negotiating — the ILWU and our employers — since the 1930s. There's adults on both sides of the table. It's called the process."
Adams emphasized that the collective bargaining process takes time. The union needs to get its demands together, as does the marine terminal employer association. And sometime in May, the two sides will begin negotiating. The current contract between the two parties expires July 1, 2022.
Ponce De Leon added the two sides have a history of successful bargains, pointing to labor negotiations that took place during the pandemic.
"If people just look [at] what we've done over the last past few years, we sat down and collectively bargained agreements to get through COVID," Ponce De Leon said. "We sat down and bargained an agreement to keep moving, to keep people safe to make sure our ports were open. We didn't close any of our ports up and down the whole West Coast."
Still, shippers are keeping an eye on the talks as they look to mitigate upcoming supply chain risks.
The National Electrical Manufacturers Association, for example, last month wrote a letter to President Joe Biden and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, asking them to help jump start negotiations and avoid a protracted dispute.
"Having ports shut down even for a limited time would result in substantial additional supply chain disruptions," the association wrote.