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As Threats of an East Coast Port Strike Loom, Shippers Build Resilience

December 15, 2023

It’s been a landmark year for labor. From the high-profile threat of a strike at UPS to the star-studded walkouts of Hollywood strikes to headline-making negotiations between automakers and the UAW, organized labor is undergoing a clear renaissance, putting company owners on edge. While 2023 strikes are still making headlines as we approach the end of the year, next year’s labor actions are already beginning to make waves.

On the East Coast of the U.S., the International Longshoremen’s Association, or ILA, has warned its members to prepare for a possible strike in October of 2024, a month before the U.S. Presidential election. With members along the East Coast, Gulf Coast, and Great Lakes, a potential ILU strike could have a catastrophic impact on U.S. maritime operations, with many in the maritime industry drawing connections between the delays and volume reshuffling associated with 2023’s ILWU strike on Canada’s West Coast.

As the ILU advises its members to prepare for potential labor action, it’s time for shippers to look at their own preparations for an East Coast strike in 2024.

What’s at Stake in an East Coast Port Strike?

The ILA represents some 145,000 rank-and-file members working at ports throughout the Gulf Coast, East Coast, and the Great Lakes region. If these workers were to walk off the job, it would cause catastrophic disruptions to supply chain operations in these areas and abroad. A disruption along the East and Gulf Coasts would send reverberations throughout the global supply chain, especially as these ports continue to take on new work in the wake of a nationwide shift from West Coast ports. Meanwhile, a labor disruption in the Great Lakes region would have a catastrophic impact on high-value agricultural supply chains in the Midwest. It would also cause significant effects on commodities, including metals and coal, that move along Great Lakes shipping corridors.

Beyond the supply chain, the timing of a potential ILA strike could have significant nationwide implications. Set to begin in October 2024, only a month before the Presidential election, political operators on both sides of the aisle will likely leverage the strike in their candidate’s election campaigns.

Is an East Coast Port Strike Inevitable?

While an East Coast port strike isn’t a sure thing, it’s looking increasingly likely amidst fractious negotiations between the ILA and the United States Maritime Maritime Alliance (USMX), an employer organization representing East and Gulf Coast ports, as well as the shipping lines that service them. Currently, ILA leadership is negotiating a new six-year contract with the USMX on behalf of their 145,000 rank-and-file members. According to reporting from The Loadstar, ILA President Harold Dagget recently warned members that union leadership would refuse an extension of the existing contract if current negotiations fail, a decision that would immediately send union members onto the picket line.

The focus, then, is on the contract between the ILA and the USMX. While union leadership has revealed relatively little in terms of precise demands, we can look at the recent agreement between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), which represents port workers along the West Coast, and the employer organization representing West Coast ports and shipping lines, the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA). The contract, negotiated in the wake of high-profile labor disruptions at key California ports, secured historic gains for the ILWU rank-and-file, including:

  • 32% pay increase, retroactive to the life of the contract.
  • One-time bonus related to hazardous working conditions during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Key concessions surrounding the use of automation at ports.

In other words, the contract between the ILWU and the PMA represented a significant win for maritime labor organizations. Key to this win, in part, was the national attention gained by multiple labor disruptions, white house involvement, and sharp rhetoric from union leaders. If the East Coast’s ILA is looking, as they surely are, at the ILWU’s playbook, we can likely expect them to leverage the same strategies in their negotiations with the USMX.

So, while a strike on the East Coast isn’t a sure thing, we can be sure that the ILA is entering negotiations with sky-high expectations for their new contract, as well as a keen understanding of the effectiveness of one-off labor disruptions and high-profile headlines. As an East Coast port strike looms, is your supply chain ready?

With an East Coast Port Strike Threatening Supply Chains, Shippers Build Resilience through Ocean Container Tracking

As the specter of an East Coast port strike looms, shippers are actively seeking strategies to fortify their supply chains against potential disruptions. With ocean container tracking software, shippers can leverage the latest in end-to-end real-time visibility to bolster resilience in the face of a possible port strike.

Invest in True End-to-End Visibility

As the shadows of a potential East Coast port strike lengthen, shippers are proactively seeking robust strategies to safeguard their supply chains from potential disruptions. As a result, shippers are turning to end-to-end visibility to increase resilience throughout the supply chain. End-to-end visibility, leveraged through an ocean container tracking software platform,  goes beyond conventional ocean tracking systems, extending into intermodal container tracking and drayage. This gives shippers a peerless view into all container operations, ensuring maximum reactivity in the face of disruptions.

By embracing this comprehensive solution, shippers gain a holistic view across both ocean and rail operations. Such strategic investments act as a linchpin, endowing shippers with the operational agility necessary to deftly navigate potential disruptions, ensuring continuity, and minimizing the impact of possible strikes.

Build Real-Time Awareness

Labor disruptions can happen quickly. Automated exception alerts emerge as a linchpin in a resilience strategy, playing a pivotal role in mitigating the potential consequences of a port strike. Swift and accurate notifications about disruptions empower shippers to respond promptly, averting logistical bottlenecks.

Ocean container tracking through OpenTrack takes this a step further, offering automated exceptions with full customization capabilities. Shippers can tailor alerts to specific concerns, whether it be addressing the nuances of blank sailings, last free day (LFD), or demurrage and detention.

Leverage an Integrated Tech-Stack

While shippers understand the importance of building a future-proofed tech stack, simple silos can prevent workflows from functioning at the highest levels. As a result, shippers are desperate for strategies to create fluid, integrated tech stacks to ensure maximum flexibility and reactivity in times of crisis. By leveraging an API-enabled ocean container tracking software, shippers can ensure that their tech stack is ready for the complex demands of a large-scale port strike.

API-enabled ocean container tracking software seamlessly integrates with existing tech stacks, fostering synergy and enabling shippers to maintain a resilient supply chain, even amidst the uncertainties posed by a potential port strike. This integrated approach positions shippers at the forefront of supply chain interfaces, ensuring operational efficiency and continuity in the face of evolving challenges.

Facing a Potential Port Strike, Shippers Turn to OpenTrack

As the threat of a port strike in 2024 continues to grow, shippers turn to OpenTrack to provide the tech-enabled resilience they need to mitigate supply chain catastrophe. With OpenTrack, shippers can access an invaluable suite of ocean container tracking software assets.

  • Automated Exception Alerts provide shippers with the real-time awareness they need to function in a dynamic logistics environment.
  • End-to-End Supply Chain Visibility offers shippers holistic visibility over containerized operations, ensuring maximum reactivity to disruptions.
  • API Integration allows shippers to streamline their tech stack without embarking on comprehensive overhauls, allowing them to keep what works and change what doesn't.

Book a demo with OpenTrack today and see how ocean container tracking software can help transform your supply chain.

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