The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) are taking measures to make sure there is not a labor shortage at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
These ports were short staffed in the early 1990s and in 2014 which caused extreme port congestion and delivery delays. Issues caused by labor shortages are costly for both the ports and the beneficial cargo owners. To avoid inefficiencies caused by lack of dockworkers the ILWU and PMA are going to onboard hundreds of new “casual” longshoreman to make sure work orders are completed each day.
Each day terminal operators submit work orders to the ILWU indicating how many longshore positions are required and what skill levels are needed. Registered longshoremen with seniority are given the first choice of jobs. At ports like LA-LB that run many additional shifts to keep up with cargo volume additional longshoreman called “casuals” are required because there often times are not enough registered longshoremen to handle the work orders in a given day.
A longshore job is a sought after position with full benefits and pay of sometimes over $100,000 a year. The applicant pool to become a casual longshoreman is large considering this is the first step on the path to becoming a registered longshoreman.
The process to become a casual is first to apply, and then the port will call about 100 applicants for testing. Those who perform well at testing will then be called for training which takes several months. The process of vetting applicants will continue until there are enough casuals to fulfill work orders for the next several years.
The pool of casual workers has become depleted over time due to the nature of the schedule. Casuals will arrive at work and wait to receive a job which during slow periods they do not receive. Eventually many casuals end up seeking other work that offers a more stable income.
The Port of Los Angeles reported record cargo volumes in 2016. Handling more than 8.85 million TEUs, this is an 8.5 percent increase from 2015 and a record breaking amount of containers for the western hemisphere. Los Angeles mayor states “The Port of L.A. is America’s Port – and we’re breaking records because we understand the importance of innovating and collaborating to move our economy forward”.