Commentary

Commentary

I don’t know about you, but I want to read or hear about something other than the congestion at West Coast ports, the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. Although the nine-month contract “negotiations” that finally brought a tentative agreement on Feb. 20 — and labor relations overall — are critical issues, there are other important issues to address, including the upcoming negotiations for 2015-16 service contracts in the eastbound trans-Pacific.
The Feb. 20 tentative agreement between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association brought a measure of labor peace to the U.S. West Coast waterfront. But after nine months of negotiations marked by labor slowdowns, threats of a lockout and the worst congestion in more than a decade, the scars will be raw for some time.
The Feb. 20 announcement shows why the current system of longshore labor relations is rotten to the core.
Logistics and procurement teams often end up in conflict about how ocean and air freight transport should be procured. Battle lines within major companies are being drawn between these internal groups as the contracting season gets into full swing shortly.
Truck and rail capacity imbalance poised to be even worse than last year.
The end of the White House's hands-off approach to the International Longshore and Warehouse Union-Pacific Maritime Association talks holds risks for the union.
By blaming the ILWU for the congestion it's caused, the PMA employers are killing two birds with one stone: evading responsibility for the employers’ failures, and gaining support from retailers, shipping companies, the public and Congress in hopes of boosting their standing at the negotiating table.
So the International Longshore and Warehouse Union is solely responsible for the humongous mess our West Coast ports are in? It must be so because I read it on JOC.com. My first concern is that perhaps this blame is misplaced. To get at the truth, let's look at the background.
An enthusiast of antique guns finds a good deal on gunpowder when on a trip away from home. The trick is getting that black powder shipped home.
Has the ILWU been tamed? We asked that question in an October 2003 commentary, a year after the 10-day lockout that cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars and in the aftermath of a series of slowdowns and vandalism that summer over new technology at the TraPac terminal in Los Angeles, actions that prompted then ILWU-President James Spinosa and other union leaders to publicly condemn their own rank-and file.
Over the past few weeks, our coverage of the West Coast labor standoff on JOC.com has come under a barrage of criticism from members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and their supporters. In comments posted on JOC.com stories, in tweets and e-mails, we stand accused of bias against the union in our coverage.
At the beginning of any new year it seems the standard theme for most business articles is one of predictions, and this year has been no different. I enjoy reading these articles as an opportunity to catch a glimpse of that next thing that has the ability to be a true game changer.
When UPS on Jan. 23 pre-announced fourth-quarter earnings, it shouldn’t have been a surprise. Yet some analysts said they were “troubled by the company’s inability to get peak (operating expenses) right during what is increasingly becoming the most important quarter of the year” and were concerned “that UPS got the service but not the cost, which is going to leave the market wondering if it can only have one or the other.”
The Queen of the Skies is fading away. The Boeing 747, the original widebody jet that has, according to Air and Space Smithsonian Magazine, “transported the equivalent of 80 percent of the human race” over the years, is being taken out of service far faster than industry observers had expected. The 747 is being supplanted by smaller but highly fuel-efficient twin-engine aircraft such as the 787 and the new Airbus A350 XWB (Extra Wide Body). Is there a message in all this for other freight sectors? Is bigger, in fact, always better?