ILA and Perishables

A sharp-eyed JOC reader pointed out something in our International Longshoremen’s Association coverage that needs clarification.

We reported last week that if the ILA strikes, the union would keep working breakbulk, perishables and military shipments. That’s only partially correct.

Complete Coverage of ILA-USMX Negotiations

The ILA will continue working breakbulk ships, because it knows a strike against them would be suicidal. A number of breakbulk carriers hire ILA labor under supplementary local agreements but are not part of the coastwide master contract. Unlike container lines that are master-contract signatories, breakbulk carriers could switch to non-union stevedores if the ILA struck. The same goes for cruise lines, which the ILA will continue to work under local contracts.

Perishables are more complicated. ILA officials say the union would continue to handle perishables, including containerized bananas imported by fruit companies that aren’t under the master contract. However, a large and growing volume of reefer containers now move on regular container ships operated by carriers that are master-contract signatories and would be affected by a strike. Many military shipments also move alongside commercial cargoes in container ships that would be idled.

One thing on which everyone agrees is that a strike would be a messy affair. Let’s hope these questions turn out to be moot.

Contact Joseph Bonney at and follow him at

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