On November 2nd, the flow of goods was halted for several hours as hundreds of International Longshore and Warehouse Union workers walked off the job at the Port of Oakland due to stalled contract negotiations which demanded better pay and benefits. By 6 PM, dock workers returned to the ports and operations resumed. Unfortunately, this serves as yet another stark reminder that logistics is unpredictable– especially when the front line is unhappy.
Dock & Warehouse Worker Threats
wsws.org reported that 83% of Port of Oakland clerks (200 out of 240) have outstanding wage claims dating back to June. Arbitration isn’t possible right now because there is no signed union agreement. 22,000 West Coast longshoremen are working without a signed contract. It’s surprising that union officials have been successful in suppressing US-based strikes, dodging a major bullet on September 16th when 200 Canadian dock and warehouse workers went on strike shutting down ports in Vancouver, British Columbia. Had US workers joined the strike, all West Coast ports from Canada to Mexico would have been shut down. Fast forward to late October, when 800 Port of Mobile Longshoremen decided not to strike with promises of returning to the bargaining table. Unfortunately, West Coast issues are not isolated. Wages, benefits, job security, and safety are global issues for dock workers who have protested in Germany, South Africa, England, Canada, and Australia.
Independent Truck Driver Threat
In addition to longshoremen’s instability, we also need to keep in mind independent truck drivers. If you recall, independent truck drivers demonstrated at LA and Oakland ports in mid-July because they opposed the AB5 legislation (reclassifying drivers as employees vs. contractors). These protests drew support from dockworkers, which negatively impacted port operations for several days.
Freight Procurement Automation
Every time there is a disruption to the flow of goods, shippers should anticipate an increase in missed appointments. In other words, goods will not arrive on time as planned. So what can shippers do to prepare for disruption? Unfortunately, many large shippers have yet to pivot away from traditional freight procurement processes. Shippers who have yet to embrace new solutions, such as freight procurement automation, will continue to find it difficult to manage disruption. “Although freight rates and service have balanced out, taking pressure off the transportation team temporarily, now is the time to upgrade static procurement procedures so shippers are proactively prepared for the next major event,” said Michael Paul, VP of sales at Sleek Technologies.
Innovative shippers have turned to AI/ML-powered automation technology, which is the only known freight procurement solution that can effectively balance truckload cost with service during major events. With many union contracts still outstanding, disruption is knocking on every shipper’s door. To be prepared, shippers should implement strong contingency plans, which means they should consider pivoting to freight procurement automation.