Federal Mediation Underway in ILWU-PMA Labor Dispute

After 8 tense months of negotiations, there has finally been an encouraging development in the labor dispute at the West Coast ports. With hundreds of trade groups and associations writing letters to the White House asking for the federal government to intervene in the West Coast port standoff, the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) announced they will be stepping in to oversee the negotiations.

Late Monday, the FMCS announced in response to a joint request from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), that contract negotiations between the two parties will proceed under the guidance of the FMCS “as soon as possible.” The FMCS announcement is a major breakthrough in negotiations that had stalled in recent months.

The FMCS is an independent federal agency that serves as a neutral third party to assist with labor negotiations. The FMCS cannot impose a settlement, but its mediators act as an intermediary to help the two sides reach an agreement.Although the PMA on Dec. 22 requested federal mediation, the FMCS could not act until the ILWU also requested assistance. Contract negotiations between the ILWU and PMA began on May 12. The ILWU has been working without a contract since the previous one expired on July 1.

The news that the ILWU had joined the PMA in requesting federal mediation came at the end of the first day of talks since the two sides took a break for the holidays. While details are scarce, it is said that the issue of jurisdiction over chassis maintenance and repair has been the latest roadblock to an agreement. Stay tuned as more information is released on the status of the negotiations.