West Coast Port Dispute Has Recycling At A Standstill

Contract negotiations between West Coast dock workers and their employers have appeared to hit a boiling point, leaving recycled material in need of export stuck in ports and potentially bound for landfills.

Since May 2014, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) have been attempting to reach a long-term contract. Those negotiations continued into late October, and at that point ILWU “began to stage devastating slowdowns up and down the coast,” PMA alleges. The dispute has caused major delays in overseas cargo shipments, including those carrying recycled materials.

The dispute is hurting recycling-related business that is already battling a tough economic climate.

With falling commodity prices, recyclers are already having a tough enough time.  The ports slowdown is now an additional obstacle to markets that do exist. Scrap is the top export by volume out of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and roughly $9.4 billion in scrap passes out of West Coast ports every year.

The continued slowdown at West Coast port terminals is having serious implications upon the industry’s ability to fulfill their contractual obligations designed to achieve maximum recycling and waste diversion goals for the municipalities we serve.

In the latest development on negotiations, PMA suspended vessel operations over the weekend, stating in a press release that “PMA member companies finally have concluded that they will no longer continue to pay workers premium pay for diminished productivity.” Ports were reopened Monday but no agreement between the two sides has been reached.