“Throw me something, mister!” A labor dispute between dock workers and shipping companies on the West Coast has delayed shipments of signature Mardi Gras beads to the Big Easy (along with countless other items stuck in gridlock).
The longshoremen in question have been working without a collective bargaining agreement since July, when the prior CBA expired. However, on top of the contract negotiations, labor and management at ports on the West Coast each blame each other for a current cargo backlog that has left goods stranded. The Associated Press has reported that the Pacific Maritime Association (which represents terminal operators and shipping lines) accuses members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union of intentionally slowing down work in order to gain bargaining leverage. On the other hand, the union contends that employers are cutting-back jobs and asking for only half of the normal labor force to move the cargo. Additional background information regarding the dispute can be found here and here.
Locally, the contract dispute is raising concerns in New Orleans that the throws will not arrive in time for Mardi Gras. Businesses in New Orleans are considering alternative options and making adjustments, including diverting products through different ports and using different modes of transportation.
The shipping companies have warned that they are on the verge of a full shutdown. For Mardi Gras revelers, this dispute serves as a reminder that the National Labor Relations Act and bargaining issues can have far-reaching consequences beyond the worksite.