The West Coast Port Dispute was between West Coast longshoremen and their employers. It leads to economic problems which made the government intervene in the dispute.
Dina Witter; Kathleen L. McGinn
Harvard Business Review (904045-PDF-ENG)
April 28, 2004
Case questions answered:
- Complete a Negotiations Map. Who are the players in the West Coast Port dispute and what are the interests that are at stake in the 2002 negotiations between the PMA and ILWU? Recall in the Frasier discussion that a more complete mapping helps identify each party’s interests.
- Alternatives and power are not static. They are shaped by changes in context as well as moves by each party.
- What is the balance of power between the ILWU and PMA at the end of the 1999 negotiations?
- How does this power change between the 1999 and 2002 negotiations?
- What effect does the threat of the Taft-Hartley Act have on the negotiations? What does the entrance of the FMCS mediators have on the balance of power?
- Why is there an impasse? The no-deal alternatives are clearly worse than a deal.
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Case answers for Showdown on the Waterfront: The West Coast Port Dispute (A)
Executive summary – The West Coast Port Dispute
The West Coast Port negotiations in 1999 and 2002 involved two main parties: ILWU and PMA. PMA’s failure in the 1999 negotiation was mainly due to no-alternative perception, the lack of consensus among members, and the relational power from ILWU.
In 2002, PMA prepared for the negotiation by shifting the power balance to their side. They restructured the board, created industry unity, and gained relative power from the government and public. With these practices, PMA was able to successfully counter ILWU’s slowdown with a lockout which in turn dramatically hurt the U.S. economy thus Talf-Hartley Act was invoked and FMCS mediators were introduced.
The introduction of the Act and third-party mediator balanced the power between both parties to the West Coast Port dispute and gave them incentives to come to an agreement. Although it was obvious that a deal was significantly better than no deal, the negotiation progressed slowly due to ineffective negotiating styles and insufficient leadership lacking positional power and incentives to resolve internal disagreement and seal the deal on their own.
Main players and interests (Exhibit 1)
1. ILWU – The union
Core interest: ILWU’s core interest is to maintain its reputation as one of the strongest labor unions in the U.S.