Uh Oh, Los Angeles, Long Beach Port Closures—Are Supply-Chain Nightmares Returning?

by Carolyn Mathas

The photos of backed-up ships at several U.S. ports have not been erased from memory—and the chances of a return to the nightmare are increasing. Industry groups are accusing a union of concerted action to withhold labor as Los Angeles and Long Beach dockworkers’ absences stretched into a second day last week. There is a well-founded fear among dockworkers that more automation will come to the docks.

The two terminals were closed on April 7 after an absence of dockworkers heightened concern regarding the nation’s distribution network that could lead to shipping delays and bigger economic disruptions.

The dockworkers, especially those involved with loading and unloading, didn’t show up Thursday night on the heels of months of contract negotiations between the union representing longshoremen and terminals’ operators. Those who did show up were released, and the ILWU Local 13 withheld labor again for Friday morning’s shift. The shutdown risks shortages on shelves nationwide and higher prices.

By Friday afternoon, about two dozen ships were at the ports of LA and Long Beach. Normal operations resumed at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach as dockworkers returned to container terminals for the April 7 evening shift.

Negotiations continue.

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