ILWU workers seeing less work at major West Coast ports
Slumping cargo volumes at major West Coast ports have led to a dramatic downturn in the amount of work offered to union dockers, especially part-time casuals, according to documents from the Pacific Maritime Association.
Nearly 24,000 members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union working at six major West Coast ports have collectively received 3.75 million fewer work hours so far this year, a 15 percent drop compared to the same period last year.
PMA, which represents the West Coast shipping lines and marine terminal operators that employ ILWU workers, also details that union work levels at the ports of Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland, Vancouver USA, Seattle and Tacoma have all fallen to their lowest point in at least three years.
In California, the Long Beach and Los Angeles ports have seen available total ILWU hours drop 9.3 percent while the Oakland port has seen a 5.5 percent decline.
In Washington State, the Port of Vancouver USA has seen a 13.4 percent drop in available work hours, while Seattle has dropped 3.8 percent and the Port of Tacoma has seen a decline of 2.3 percent.
The drops are more significant when the various types of ILWU workers are broken out.
The ILWU has two generic types of workers: casual members and registered members. Casuals are part-time workers who must accumulate a set number of work hours within a certain period to qualify for a full-time registered position. Registered positions include longshoremen, clerks and foremen. Because the casuals only get extra work that cannot be filled first by full-time ILWU members, the current downturn at the ports has hit the casuals significantly harder.
The nearly 9,500 ILWU casuals in Southern California have experienced the worst West Coast reduction, with a nearly 60 percent drop off in available work hours from 1.64 million hours for the first 41 weeks of last year to 687,000 hours this year. These are work levels not seen by casuals at the Long Beach and Los Angeles ports since 1999.
Work available for the nearly 300 Oakland casuals has dropped by nearly 47 percent, from 28,236 hours last year to 15,186 hours this year. The last time casuals in Oakland saw this level of available work was in 2002.
The PMA also reports that available work hours for Vancouver USA casuals have slipped from 52,588 last year to 23,528 this year — a reduction of more than 55 percent. The 75 Vancouver casuals last saw similar work levels in 2005.
The 275 casuals at the Seattle port have seen a 25 percent drop in available work hours from 130,526 hours last year to 97,971 hours this year. The nearly 325 ILWU casuals working the nearby Port of Tacoma have seen a similar 24 percent drop in available work, sliding from 116,295 hours last year to 88,438 this year. Both ports last saw similar casual work levels in 2003.
Since they receive the first selection of available work, the more senior full-time ILWU members have seen much smaller drops in the amount of work being offered.
So far this year, regular ILWU dockers at the Long Beach port have seen a 7.6 percent drop in available work hours from 6.63 million last year to 6.12 million this year. Regular dockers at Los Angeles faired much better, shedding about 120,000 work hours, or 1.4 percent, from the 8.78 million hours worked in the first 41 weeks of 2007. The ILWU, which considers the two ports as a single port complex, lists a combined total of just over 9,500 active full-time members at the two ports.
The more than 1,600 full-time dockers at the Port of Oakland have been able to work 1.9 million hours so far this year, down 5.5 percent from the 2.04 million hours worked during the same period in 2007.
In Washington State, the 200 full-time dockers at the Port of Vancouver USA have seen available work hours drop 7.1 percent, or 24,465 hours, from the 348,496 hours available last year.
Seattle and Tacoma port full-time dockers have experienced almost no drop-off in available work, with a 2 percent and 1 percent decline, respectively. Available hours for the 1,100 full-time dockers at Seattle fell from 1.6 million last year to 1.57 million this year. At Tacoma available hours for nearly 1,000 full-time ILWU members fell from 1.8 million hours last year to 1.78 million this year.
The drops in available work follow hand in hand with sliding year-to-date cargo volume numbers reported by five of the six ports. Cargo volumes at the Long Beach port are down 9.9 percent through August while Los Angeles is down 4.55 percent. The two ports moved a combined 9.56 million TEUs in the first eight months of the year.
Oakland port officials have reported moving 1.5 million TEUs so far this year, down 3.6 percent from the same period last year.
In the Puget Sound area, the Port of Seattle has seen a 10.1 percent drop in cargo volumes to nearly 1.2 million TEUs.
Tacoma port officials have shed about 21,000 TEUs through August, a 1.7 percent drop from the 1.26 million TEUs moved during the year ago period.
The Port of Vancouver USA does not publish monthly TEU numbers. ' Keith Higginbotham