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ILA and USMX Master Contract Negotiations: A Deadline (and Possible Strike) Looms

The master contract between the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) and United States Maritime Alliance (USMX) expires on September 30th, 2024.

Though the deadline is not until the end of September, months from now, the union is asking local officials for their local contracts to be agreed upon by May 17th. This way, the overall master contract can be negotiated by the Sept. 30th expiration date. The International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) represents 45,000 dockworkers along the U.S. East and Gulf Coast. The United States Maritime Alliance (USMX) represents employers of the longshore industry in those regions at 46 ports.

With negotiations underway, there are growing concerns that a labor dispute could spark a work stoppage or work slowdowns. Retailers across the country worry about the impact of a strike as the contract expires in the middle of the next peak season for shipping. Last year, ILA leadership issued a statement informing that “Members should prepare for the possibility of a coast-wide strike in October 2024.”

From Maine to Texas: What’s Covered in the Master Contract?

The Master Contract includes topics relating to the employment of longshore employees on container and roll-on/roll-off (ro-ro) vessels and terminals in all ports from Maine to Texas. The contract covers 45,000 of the ILA’s 70,000 members. USMX is the group representing companies that own containerships and run port authorities. USMX speaks on behalf of terminal operators at 46 ports.

Here are several of the major districts covered in the Master Contract:

1.  NY & NJ 5. Hampton Roads 9.  Jacksonville 13. West Gulf
2.  Boston 6.  Wilmington. NC 10.  Southeast FL 14.  Mobile
3.  Philadelphia 7.  Charleston 11.  Tampa
4.  Baltimore 8.  Savannah 12.  New Orleans

The ongoing debate over automation in ports has historical roots, along with massive wage increases.

Automation has always been a major issue and will continue to be a hot topic at these negotiations. The ILA on the U.S. East Coast may be targeting an increase more than the 32% ILWU West Coast workers received in their new six-year contract signed last year. Last July, during an ILA conference, their leadership highlighted the 40% increase secured by the Great Lakes District of the union.

The possibility of a strike is looming over the industry. A strike of this scale would not only halt U.S. shipping operations but also disrupt global supply chains. While there’s hope for an agreement before a mid-May deadline, pressure is mounting as shippers divert cargo to the U.S. West Coast in anticipation of a strike.

The world is watching closely as negotiations unfold, knowing that the outcome will shape the future of U.S. ports and labor relations in the global shipping industry.

The decisions made in the coming weeks will affect the global supply chain. Cooperation, understanding, and a shared vision for a more resilient supply system are needed in this critical moment.

Marc Holder
Marc Holder
Marc has a degree in Business Management from the University of Texas at Dallas. He began his career in 2013 at Evergreen Shipping, where he worked as a Vessel Coordinator, gaining expertise in ocean shipping. Transitioning to the U.S. Imports/Exports sales team in the Gulf Region, Marc showcased dedication and industry knowledge. Since September 2019, he has worked at MTS Logistics as a Sales Executive. He was recently appointed as Vice President of Sales, a recognition of his leadership and commitment to customer service. In his free time, Marc enjoys outdoor activities with his family, hiking, and playing basketball.

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