It’s approaching the Christmas season and there are huge impacts for imports from Asia on the West Coast. We are once again hearing the stories that truck workers in ports of Los Angeles (L.A.) and Long Beach strike. And now the Teamsters are getting sued for allegedly conspiring against the owner-operator drivers. The story is that the port terminals, who work with the Teamsters, have blocked the owner-operator drivers from accessing the facilities while giving the union drivers access.
The port of L.A. and Long Beach workers have a long history of strikes, which can be traced back to more than ten years ago. Often times they strike prior to the holiday seasons in order to maximize public attention. Over the years, they have claimed the Teamsters are conducting unfair labor practices and have treated them unfairly. Worse, the strikes seem to have spread to other parts of the West Coast, with reports of strikes in Seattle ports. Concerns have already been raised by the U.S. government that the strikes would disrupt the U.S economy since the L.A. and Long Beach ports are the busiest in the United States and the main ports for imports from Asia.
Clearly, the U.S. government is not the only one who has concerns. Companies importing Asian goods are actively seeking ways to get around the West Coast generally and in particular, Long Beach. Traditionally, all goods from China, Taiwan, Japan and the Far East get to the U.S. heartland through Long Beach and then by railroad. However, since the commercial operation of the expanded Panama Canal having opened in late June of this year, importers are seriously looking at obviating the trouble-prone L.A. ports. If prices are not much affected, importers would have their goods shipped directly to other ports in the U.S., such as Houston, New Orleans, Miami, Baltimore, NYC and Philadelphia, which may be closer to their end destination than is Southern California for their imports from Asia.
It will be very interesting to see how these things play out. If importers choose to abandon L.A. ports, it would change the U.S international logistics dramatically, since Asia goods remain a big portion among U.S. imports goods, 42.7% to be exact. And it would also be very interesting to see how the U.S. government would attempt to save the L.A ports from themselves.