With negotiations on a new labor agreement between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and employers represented by the Pacific Maritime Association due to start on May 12, the Retail Industry Leaders Association is asking the presidents of both groups to "take all the necessary steps to avoid costly work stoppages and strikes stemming from a protracted labor dispute and secure a contract before the expiration of the current agreement at the end of June."
RILA says it has more than 200 members who are large retailers, product manufacturers, and service suppliers, accounting for $1.5 trillion in sales and millions of jobs at more than 100,000 stores, manufacturing plants and distribution centers in the U.S. and abroad.
"Stable operations at port facilities are a necessary dynamic in the retail supply chain and any disruption, even potential disruptions, impose significant challenges upon the retail industry," said Sandra Kennedy, RILA's president, in a letter to James McKenna, president of PMA, and Robert McEllrath, president of the ILWU.
“With the expiration of the current contract a mere eight weeks away, and recognizing that there are a number of challenging issues that need to be addressed, retailers remain hopeful that a new long-term agreement can be reached before the deadline,” she wrote.
Kennedy said retailers are "confident a deal can be reached before the current contract expires," but said memories of a 2002 lockout of union members in 2002 "are still fresh in the minds of many. During the work stoppage of those negotiations, the American economy lost nearly a billion dollars a day, as goods passed out of season and produce rotted on the docks."
Kennedy continued, saying, “Many retailers have taken stock of the uncertain labor situation at the West Coast ports and have implemented contingency plans to preserve the reliability of their supply chains. Some of our members advise that they are beginning to reroute shipments through other channels."
The nation's largest association of retailers, the National Retail Federation, had tried to convince the parties to begin negotiations on a new contract earlier than May 12.