At the annual meeting of the Agriculture Transportation Coalition in San Francisco last Thursday, agricultural shippers talked about their experiences that stretched over nine months as labor contract negotiations slowly moved ahead between the West Coast dockworkers’ union and the terminal operators and shipping lines at 29 ports. It took nine months for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and Pacific Maritime Association to reach agreement on a new contract.

The meeting had attendance of about 350 exporters, logistics companies, truck drivers, port officials and others.

Erica Philips, reporter for the Wall Street Journal wrote that Nin Solari, vice-president of Avanti Nut Co. Inc. attributed losing $50,000 to the port slowdowns, which was a huge problem for the small company.

Marlon Jones, export supply chain manager for International Paper, said the West Coast port slowdowns cost the company millions of dollars and hurt it against its competitors. Lost business might not come back, he said.

Other shippers talked about similar situations including forever lost exports. 

Phillips wrote that Solari called for changes to the union contract such as productivity goals to hold union workers accountable and not having one union contract for all the ports’ workers on the West Coast. “Clearly, having one contract has shown the damage it can do,” she reportedly said.

She contended in speaking to the crowd that importers and exporters should have a seat at the table during port labor negotiations. She complained that those sending items through the ports end up paying for any contract because of charges passed along.