LOS ANGELES — The White House is monitoring labor negotiations between ILWU dockworkers and the Pacific Maritime Association “as closely as they can be watched without being a point of interference,” Port and Supply Chain Envoy Gen. Stephen Lyons said last week.
Lyons, appointed by President Joe Biden to oversee the Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force on May 27, said during an appearance at the Port of Los Angeles monthly briefing that he wasn’t surprised the negotiations continued beyond the expiration of their last contract.
“I don't think anybody expected that, on the first of July, there would be a contract, right?” Lyons said. “That's not normally how it works. I do think there's some hard work going on right now in San Francisco. I think there's some puts and takes between both parties. … That's called negotiations.”
The retired general, who previously led the U.S. Transportation Command, said he has spoken with leaders of both the union and its management, and he stays in regular contact with Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, the administration’s lead in monitoring the bargaining.
Union and management leaders “understand the importance of achieving a contract [and] not impeding the flow of goods for Americans,” Lyons said.
“We've got that commitment loud and clear from both presidents on that issue,” he said. “And the administration’s obviously watching this very closely, and we'll continue to do that.”
During the briefing, Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka praised Biden’s commitment to ensuring a fair deal, saying he was, “to my knowledge, the first sitting president to visit with leadership from both sides during an active contract negotiation.”
Seroka confirmed Lyons’ description of the administration’s approach to monitoring the negotiations, which the port director called “ongoing and regular, without being intrusive.”
The negotiators have put out joint press releases during the high-stakes bargaining process “to try to tell the market, the American public, what’s going on,” the port executive director said. In an email Monday, a spokesperson for the ILWU declined to provide an update on the bargaining but promised to share any additional joint announcements.
“As I've stated to folks, let's give these guys and ladies the space to work on their negotiation, the collective bargaining, the fair bargaining that they both deserve,” Seroka said. “And the rest of us are going to move all this freight and keep working on improving our supply chain.”
Edwin Lopez contributed to this report.