One of our own runs to give back

Champion's very own Jeff Warzinski (Operations Manager) participated in the 11th annual 5k run at the San Diego IAM Annual Meeting in October.  Not only did he run the race, he came in 2nd overall and 1st in his age group with a field of over 100 runners!  Congratulations, Jeff!

Please check out the write up in the Dec/Jan issue of FIDI Focus (Jeff is in the upper left photo in the orange shirt):

FIDI article

Full article

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Travel to European Countries in the Schengen Area (passport info reminder)


Check the expiration date on your passport carefully before traveling to Europe.  Entry into any of the 26 European countries in the Schengen areafor short-term tourism, a business trip, or in transit to a non-Schengen destination, requires that your passport be valid for at least three months beyond your intended date of departure.  If your passport does not meet the Schengen requirements, you may be refused boarding by the airline at your point of origin or while transferring planes.  You could also be denied entry when you arrive in the Schengen area.  For this reason,we recommend that your passport have at least six months’validity remaining whenever you travel abroad.  You can find passport validity requirements for your destination country, along with other important information, on our Country Specific Information pages.  To ensure that your travel plans are not disrupted, plan ahead to renew your passport before traveling.  Visit our passport website for more information on applying for a new or renewal passport.

The European countries that make up the Schengen area are enforcing the requirement that short-term tourism or business visitors’ passports be valid for at least three months beyond the intended date of departure from the Schengen area, though adherence varies from country to country.  Some Schengen countries assume all travelers will stay the full three months allowed for visa-free visitors, meaning you may not be admitted unless your passport is valid for at least six months, regardless of the duration of your stay.  This requirement may also apply if you are transiting a Schengen airport for several hours en route to a non-Schengen destination. 

If you are a U.S. citizen with a valid U.S. passport traveling for tourism or business, you can apply to enter the Schengen area without a visa for a period of three months within each six-month period.  If you spend three months in the Schengen area during any six-month period, you must wait another three months before you can apply to enter the Schengen area again without a visa.  If you do not meet these conditions, or plan to stay in the Schengen area longer than three months, contact the embassy of the country where you plan to spend the majority of your time to apply for a visa. 

When you first cross any external border of the Schengen area and present your passport for entry, an immigration official will determine if you qualify for entry into the Schengen area.  You may be denied entry if the officer determines you do not qualify for entry.  When moving from one Schengen country to another, you do not need to show your passport until you exit the Schengen area.  Ensure your passport is stamped upon entry and exit.  For additional information on traveling to and within the Schengen area, see our FAQ below.

Courtesy of U.S. Department of State

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Travelers Are Taking No-Frills Cruises on Ocean Freighters

October 28, 2015 — 6:00 PM EDT

CMA CGM’s Rigoletto

Photographer: Fabien Montreuil

In recent years, big cruise operators such as Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Star Cruises have spent heavily on soaring atriums, sushi bars, cabaret shows, and on-deck water slides to woo vacationers. Don’t tell that to John McGuffick, who’s spent months at a time at sea on cargo vessels—happily ensconced in quarters more suited to a Trappist monk than a Caribbean cruiser.

“The food can be pretty ordinary, and you have to be prepared to go with the flow,” says the 72-year-old retired farmer from Australia whose 10 trips via ocean freighter have taken him to dozens of ports across Asia, Europe, and North America. His personal maritime endurance record: 110 days nonstop from Dunkirk, in northern France, to Singapore. Explains McGuffick: “I like the solitude.”

Shipping companies like the dollars passengers such as McGuffick can bring aboard. In a slowing global economy, freight prices have fallen so far that hauling a person from Shanghai to Rotterdam brings in at least 10 times more revenue than a 20-foot container full of flat-packed furniture.

It’s not luxurious and not exactly cheap: About $115 a day secures travelers a bed and three meals on some of the largest vessels ever built. The handful of paying passengers—ships typically take no more than a dozen at a time—dine with the crew, have the run of most of the ship, and can chat up the captain on the bridge or engineers below deck. Forget about the vast housekeeping staffs cruise lines are known for. Freighter cabins are serviced once a week, and passengers have to wash their own clothes. Rather than poolside bars, there’s usually a modest supply of alcoholic drinks paid for via an honor system. While Internet access is limited, Ping-Pong tables, dartboards, a selection of CDs and DVDs, and books in a variety of languages help passengers pass the time.

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5 Things You Can Do To Drive Corporate Culture


Tech companies may get all the attention for creating engaging and collaborative workspaces and strong corporate cultures, but the truth is that employee engagement benefits businesses in any industry. Enerplus, a medium-sized oil and gas company based in Canada, has made corporate culture a major emphasis in the last few years, and the results have been phenomenal. Keep in mind that this is a VERY conservative industry that isn’t really known for progressive ideas about the workplace. However, not only is Enerplus driving innovation and inspiring other companies across the industry, it is also attracting top talent and can see revenue stability during a tough time in the industry. I sat down with Lisa Ower, Vice President of Human Resources, to learn the secrets to Enerplus’ success and to see how the principles can be applied to any business. Lisa and Enerplus are members of the Future of Work Community, a global brand council devoted to exploring the future of work, they have allowed me to share this information publicly.

Here are five things you can do (and that Enerplus has done) to drive corporate culture with great results:

1. Get leadership on board. Just like changes to benefits packages, stock information, and training procedures need the support of upper-level management, so does an employee-driven corporate culture. Although much of a strong corporate culture should be organic and develop from grassroots efforts, having the support and encouragement of leadership is key in implementing lasting change. Although corporate culture is for more than just the big tech companies, showing the stock prices and employee satisfaction scores from companies like Google GOOGL +1.78% and Netflix NFLX +2.91% can help persuade board members and senior management that developing employee engagement can have a major impact on the bottom line. Once you have management’s support, stay on their radar with consistent updates, feedback, and innovative ideas. While it may take some time to get all board members on the same page, having upper-level support makes the entire process much easier.

2. Listen to employees. No one is living your company culture more than your employees, so getting their feedback is vital. Instead of reacting to existing issues in a brash and impulsive way, use survey data to understand your employees’ current perceptions of the culture. When it comes to making changes, employees are much more likely to listen and help innovate if they feel valued and engaged. Take advantage of a wide variety of data sources, such as employee surveys and focus groups, to truly understand the business mindset. Employees notice when you take the time to listen to and value their input, which can engage them in the process and excite them about new possibilities.

3. Practice what you preach. Embedding culture in your people practices and daily interactions is crucial. Many companies come up with a culture statement or catchphrase and hang it on wall posters without really thinking about it or applying it to normal work life. The most successful corporate culture-driven companies realize that employee engagement comes through practicing what you preach and incorporating your company’s driving principles into every aspect of every day. It’s easy to use buzzwords like collaboration, innovation, and empowerment, but what are you doing to truly incorporate those principles into your employees’ everyday life? The culture at Enerplus revolves around five heart values: honesty, engagement, accountability, responsibility, and teamwork. Instead of just throwing the words around, the company puts them into action, like exemplifying teamwork with regular cross-departmental think tanks and forums, or by showcasing accountability by running an unlimited vacation days schedule that allows employees to take the time they need for personal matters as long as their work gets done.

4. Make it fun. People buy in to things they feel have value and enrich their employee experience. A session on leadership development can be incredibly dull, or you can use it as an opportunity to extend your culture through innovative activities, collaboration, and feedback. This could be as simple as offering mixer events for employees or using pop culture references or hosting a gameshow to explain complex business concepts. No matter the industry, corporate culture is a place that allows creativity to shine through. If you are encouraging your employees to be collaborative and innovative, your cultural plan needs to reflect that as well.

5. Measure and adapt. Creating a strong corporate culture isn’t something you can simply cross off a to-do list and be done with. Just like individuals, businesses are living, changing organizations that need constant adjustments as personalities, economies, and practices change. In order to see real change, you must be constantly adapting and perfecting your ideas and processes (especially when you want to see that same change agility in your people). One of the best ways to do this is to have the employees continuously involved through surveys, think tanks, focus groups, and more. Enerplus found that when they asked employees for feedback, employees were incredibly creative with their ideas and willing to add to the corporate culture experience. And don’t be afraid to rethink everything; as Lisa says, “The future of work is ever evolving and if we do not allow for creativity and innovation, we will continue to be dinosaurs in our space… we all know what happened to the dinosaurs!” Culture varies for every company, so keep tinkering and trying new practices until you find what works best for your organization.

Creating a corporate culture isn’t something that happens overnight—it is a journey. However, that’s not to say that every company can’t benefit from investing time in engaging and empowering employees. After all, corporate culture not only sets the company up for success financially, it also brings in talented recruits and improves morale for a stronger and more cohesive organization.

Courtesy of

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Expat to Expat Advice: Global Nomads Tell All

Who could provide better advice on the expat life than our very own expat readers? In our recent reader survey — which we wrote about herehere and here – we asked you to weigh in with your top tips and tricks for people heading overseas on expat adventures. We’ve compiled many of your responses below — some practical, some poignant – along with a list of online resources you found helpful.

What you told us (in your own words):

  • “Trust your instincts more than HR!!”
  • “Be less self-conscious. Still working on this one.”
  • “Walk out the door and take things slow every day.”
  • “Skip trying to make friends with the locals and live where the expats live. I lived in a non-expat area, near where my brother and his family lived in London — and there just weren’t as many social experiences there for people who were transient.”
  • “Not for me, but I wish more expats would delve deeper into the cultures in which they live. I married a local, so I can’t get much more in-depth!”
  • “Travel and establish a life away from the USA at a young age”
  • “Get rid of all of your stuff at home…all of it!”
  • “How much fun I would have!”
  • “Be really clear on work visa requirements before you set off to look for a job…”
  • “You will always miss New York City bagels and Irish dairy products and Japanese rice balls.”
  • “You will run into people who are not cut out for the expat experience.”
  • “Vietnam’s internet is tragic.”
  • “When to call it quits — I lived in China for 8 years, and that was just too long.”
  • “Don’t waste time trying to build relationships with people just because you speak the same language. Try to seek out new friendships and contacts with people you actually share more in common with beyond language.”
  • “Keep careful records and make copies to survive the bureaucracy.”
  • “Cheese is expensive overseas!”
  • “You will always be sitting in two chairs.”
  • “You’ll never feel like ‘home’ is one place ever again. You adopt a new country, new friends and life, but always have one foot back in your original country. I’m sad to ever leave Ireland, but scared/anxious to go back to the USA. I’ll always be comparing.”
  • “Sort out your taxes before, not after”
  • “Learn to cook. Local versions of your comfort zone will always disappoint, so learn to make it yourself.”
  • “You need a CDI in France to buy a house.”
  • “There’s nothing wrong with not wanting to return to your home country.”
  • “The difficulty in opening a bank account as an expat, due to U.S. reporting rules. Many local banks here won’t issue a bank account to U.S. nationals”
  • “Even international schools with U.S. college prep don’t do a great job getting high schoolers prepared”
  • “You’ll get addicted to it.”
  • “This is one that took 2 years to get over, but the ability to lose your home-colored lens, and look at things openly without initial judgment. Even if told this beforehand, it is very difficult to overcome and can be a source of negativity both personally and professionally.”
  • “I wish someone had told me the dollar would tank from 2003 to 2014.”
  • “Get settled right away. Then travel like you have no time left!”
  • “It’s supposed to suck sometimes”
  • “I wish someone had prepared me for solitude. At the beginning, when you know no one, it’s very tough. Especially when you are young!”
  • “Once you’re on the expat roller coaster it’s hard to get off.”
  • “Just because you don’t understand how things work in the country doesn’t mean the locals have no idea what they’re doing. Don’t be condescending.”
  • “Bring tampons. That both is and isn’t a joke. I researched before I came and I think I was as prepared as I could have been. The most useful lessons I’ve learned from this expat experience couldn’t have been taught before-hand. So, I think the best advice that I didn’t receive would have been to bring tampons.”
  • “That I was expected to file U.S. taxes.”
  • “Relax more, don’t sweat the small stuff.”
  • “Don’t take your connections with home for granted — they need time, work, and effort to be maintained. It’s not easy and the relationships will not be the same as they were once you leave. It may help you realize who your genuine friends are.”
  • “Bring more books.”
  • “How much spouses need to rely on each other and how hard that can be.”
  • “Get a lawyer and an accountant right away.”
  • “That my ‘normal’ will not be anyone else’s normal”
  • “Always accept an invitation.”

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The Good Expat: 5 Steps to a Successful Expat Experience

10:00 pm ET
Jul 5, 2015

Montaigne once said: “The pleasantest things in the world are pleasant thoughts: and the great art of life is to have as many of them as possible.”

I’m no expert on the great art of life, but having lived on four different continents, I know that Montaigne is on to something when it comes to expat life. As an expat, you have a choice: You can be miserable because nothing in your new life works as it did before, or you can enjoy the wonder of exploring a new culture, even if it’s a culture where “just now” means “later, tomorrow, definitely not anytime soon.”

I won’t ever forget the low point of our expat assignment in South Africa. It was March 2010, we had been living in Johannesburg for a week, and I was sitting on a chair in our empty new kitchen with my head on the table, letting a wave of self-pity wash over me. The kids hated their new school. Plus, I had no car and no cell phone (and neither one seemed possible to be acquired without the other). An army of ants had marched up my arm that morning, angrily swarming out of the electric kettle as I was pouring my tea. And I had hardly closed an eye since we had arrived, because every night I was woken by a blood-curdling scream. The sound, it turned out, emanated from a flock of hadedas, a South African species of bird with vocal chords 10 times stronger than any rooster. I’d come to like them, people assured me, but I wanted to strangle them one by one. Forget the crime I’d been warned of. Getting hijacked at gunpoint sounded more promising than dealing with the non-human predators invading my house.

Thinking murderous thoughts, not pleasant ones, I was in desperate need of a good dose of Montaigne. But how to get there? What steps can you take to achieve a successful expat experience?
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Guess Which Ranks as the Most Expensive City for Expats?

Luanda, the capital of oil-rich Angola, tops the list of most expensive cities for expats for the third year in a row, according to a ranking released by consultancy Mercer on Tuesday.  For expats, imported goods and safe living conditions come at a steep cost in Luanda.

The top five most expensive cities have remained relatively stable. Moving from No. 3 to No. 2 this year, Hong Kong, with its currency pegged to the U.S. dollar, is known for having one of the most expensive housing markets in the world. Zurich, Geneva and Bern all remained in the top 10, strengthening Switzerland’s position as one of the most expensive countries for expats, thanks to this year’s appreciation of the Swiss franc against the euro. Singapore held its position at No. 4 for the second year, a consistently popular and pricey location for multinational companies in the Asia-Pacific region. Seoul rose from No.  14 to No. 8 because of the recent appreciation of the Korean currency.  Shanghai and Beijing rose 4 positions each, to No. 6 and 7, respectively, thanks to the strengthening of the Chinese yuan. The yuan’s appreciation and the high price of imported foreign goods have raised the cost of living in many Chinese cities, with 9 listed in the top 30 most expensive expat locales.

Using New York as the base city, Mercer compares the cost of a variety of factors relevant to expat life, including housing, transportation, food, imported goods, entertainment and clothing. Mercer’s analysis can be used to determine the appropriate compensation packages for employees sent abroad by their companies. Ilya Bonic, president of Mercer’s Talent business, said: “Sending employees abroad is necessary to compete in markets and for critical talent, and employers need a reliable and accurate reflection of the cost to their bottom line.”

The least expensive cities for expats are scattered in different regions, but they are primarily in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The least expensive city for expats is Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, which, according to, “is not a popular expat destination, with few moving here for reasons other than an already-established job contract. The exact number of Western expats in Kyrgyzstan has never been determined, but is likely to be around 1,000 people.”  Rounding out the bottom three are Windhoek (Namibia’s capital) and Karachi (Pakistan). Tunis, Tunisia’s capital, is the fourth-cheapest place to live as an expat, which could be connected to recent political unrest and terrorist activities. Cape Town, a city relatively popular with expats, is also listed as one of the cheapest places to be an expat, thanks to the weakening South African rand.

The top five most expensive European cities to live in are Zurich (3), Geneva (5), Bern (9), London (12) and Copenhagen (24). Many Western European cities fell in the rankings, with Paris (46) falling 14 points, Vienna (56) falling 24, and Rome (59) falling 28 spots. Scandinavian currencies also dropped in comparison to the U.S. dollar, with Stockholm (106) falling 68 points. Although it is still top 5 for Europe, Copenhagen (24) fell 9 points from last year’s No. 15. Unsurprisingly, following a year of devaluation for the Russian ruble following U.S. sanctions and international uncertainty, the cost of living as an expat in Russia decreased significantly, with Moscow (50) dropping 41 points, and St. Petersburg (152) dropping 117.

Moving to the Asia-Pacific region as an expat comes with a notably high cost of living, with the 5 most expensive cities in that region coming in the top 10 worldwide. Hong Kong’s U.S. dollar peg and competitive housing market kept it at No. 2, and Singapore (4) remained near the top as well. Seoul (8) appeared in the top 10 for the first time.  Tokyo (11) was bumped down from No. 7 due to the devaluation of the yen against the dollar. Chinese cities Shenzhen (14), Guangzhou (15), Shenyang (21), Qingdao (24), Nanjing (26), Tianjin (27), and Chengdu (29) all made jumps up the rankings. Taipei (41) in Taiwan also jumped 20 spots. Every major expat city in South and Southeast Asia either became more expensive to live in or remained constant over the past year. The cost of living for expats in Australia went down due to the devaluation of the Australian dollar against the U.S. dollar, with Sydney, the country’s most expensive city, moving from No. 26 to 31.

Tel Aviv (18) remained the most expensive city in the Middle East for expats, while several other Middle Eastern cities became more expensive for expats, as many Middle Eastern countries peg their currency to the U.S. dollar. The other top 4 most expensive cities for expats, Dubai (23), Abu Dhabi (33), Beirut (44) and Amman (54) all operate on U.S.-pegged currencies and saw major leaps up the scale this year. Housing for expats, especially in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, has seen major price increases over the past year.

Latin America remained fairly consistent, with a general trend toward shifting up the list. Buenos Aires (19) tops the list as the most expensive city in the region, with a significant amount of inflation in the goods and services basket. Brazil’s São Paulo (40) and Rio de Janeiro (67) were the second and third most expensive places to live, respectively, in Latin America, followed by Montevideo (83) in Uruguay and San Juan (89) in Puerto Rico, all popular destinations for expats.

Africa has some notably expensive places to live as an expat, due to the “two-tier economy” for locals and expats. Luanda is at No. 1, followed by Chad’s N’Djamena (10), Kinshasa (13) in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Victoria (17) in the Seychelles, and Lagos (20) in Nigeria. Most of this is due to the high price of ensuring an employee’s safety in these areas that are often known for being unstable. Lagos, however, is a burgeoning expat destination, due to its position as the business hub of Western Africa.

In the U.S., the appreciating dollar means affording housing is relatively more expensive than it is abroad. New York, the city used for comparison in this survey, was the 16thmost expensive city for expats, followed by Los Angeles (36), San Francisco (37) and Washington, D.C. (50). All of these costs are up from last year and mirror cost increases in other U.S. cities, especially those with growing tech or financial centers, like Seattle (106) and Portland, Ore. (135).

Worldwide, here’s how the cities ranked:

Correction: Islamabad is the capital of Pakistan. An earlier version of this post misidentified Karachi as the capital. 

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Visa Systems Issues June 2015

Technological Systems Issue

JUNE 29, 2015

Visa System Issues

  • All visa-issuing embassies and consulates are now back online. We are scheduling visa interviews and issuing nonimmigrant and immigrant visas.

  • We issued more than 410,000 nonimmigrant visas from June 21 through June 29. Consular staff worked through the weekend to diminish our backlog, the bulk of which has now been cleared. 

  • We have issued all remaining H-2 visas for temporary workers that were pending during the June 9 – June 19 timeframe. Mexico posts are now processing all H-2 visas as normal.

  • We are still experiencing problems with some online immigrant visa application forms. We hope to have a fix in place for this by early next week.

  • We deeply regret the inconvenience to travelers who are waiting for visas, as well as their families and U.S. businesses that have been affected.
Please find more information from the Department of State here

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UNITED KINGDOM (May 13, 2015) – UK to roll out biometric residence permits for overseas visa applicants worldwide by July


What is the change? By the end of July, the United Kingdom will phase in all countries to its new Biometric Residence Permits procedures for overseas visa applicants.

What does the change mean? All overseas visa applicants for stays of longer than six months will be required to follow new procedures to obtain a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP). Applicants will receive a 30-day "travel vignette" allowing entry to the U.K and then will have 10 days upon arrival to pick up their BRP. The new process replaces the full visa stamp and allows the U.K. to meet its European Union obligations.

  • Implementation time frame: The permits are being phased in for applicants from various countries from April through July 2015.

  • Visas/permits affected: All U.K. entry categories for business, work and family travel.

  • Who is affected: Non-EEA nationals applying from overseas to stay in the U.K. for longer than six months.

  • Impact on processing times: The processing of 30-day "travel vignettes" allowing entry into the U.K. will remain in line with current consular visa processing times, but applicants must observe the strict 10-day deadline to collect the BRP on arrival in the U.K.

  • Business impact: The requirement to define a fixed travel date at the visa application stage is inflexible and may require applicants to submit repeat applications overseas if business or travel plans change. The requirement to collect the BRP within 10 days of arrival is similarly inflexible and adds an additional administrative step for migrants early on in their relocation. Corporate human resources personnel should be familiar with the new 30-day "travel vignette" when conducting right-to-work checks of employees who begin work before obtaining their BRPs, as well as the fact that they will be required to make a secondary check once the employee obtains the BRP.

  • Next steps: Global mobility personnel should review the rollout schedule for their particular country and review the new procedural rules associated with the BRP issuance.

Info and background courtesy of

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2015's Most And Least Reliable Countries To Do Business In

Are you looking for new international suppliers for your company? Or thinking about where to open an overseas office? When you evaluate your international customers, do you care about the stability of their business environment? What about government corruption? If you already have foreign offices, have you checked on the risks of natural disasters like floods and earthquakes in those locations? How sound is the infrastructure there?

For country-by-country shortcut answers to those questions, consider the “2015 FM Global Resilience Index,” a ranking of 130 countries by FM Global, the 180-year-old international commercial and industrial insurance company based in Johnston, RI. FM Global’s main business: providing loss prevention services to big companies around the globe.

FM Global puts countries through a rigorous evaluation process and produces a list of the places it deems most resilient. Landing in first place is a country that may not be at the top of your list for opening a subsidiary or factory: Norway (ExxonMobil has operated there for more than 120 years; ConocoPhillips also has longstanding oil fields there). Coming in second is a more obvious choice, given its bank secrecy laws and stable political environment: Switzerland. The Netherlands, with its healthy economy, solid infrastructure, sophisticated ports, extensive offshore wind power system, and secure dyke system, is in third place.

The U.S. doesn’t rank until 10th place and then only for a portion of the country FM Global calls Region 2, made up of 26 states in the Southwest, Midwest, and the South, plus Washington, DC., which FM Global deems safe from wind storms and earthquakes. The U.S.’s Region 1, which includes Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey and New York, is vulnerable to storms and places 16th on the list. U.S. Region 3, threatened by earthquakes, ranks in 21st place, just behind the United Kingdom and above Portugal. Region 3 includes California, Oregon, Hawaii and Alaska.

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Despite West Coast ports' labor deal, normality not yet on horizon

Shaming of both sides seems to have helped bring about resolution in West Coast port labor dispute
Labor dispute at West Coast ports 'wrought havoc' on the soybean industry

West Coast ports are emerging from the most contentious labor dispute in more than a decade, but lingering resentment and structural problems may complicate a return to normality.

Activity picked up Saturday at Western harbors after the dockworkers union and employers reached a tentative agreement late Friday on a new five-year contract that will cover 20,000 workers at 29 ports.

The resolution followed months of difficult negotiations that contributed to an extended slowdown at the docks. Cargo was stranded, disrupting operations for Central Valley citrus growers, Midwest auto factories, McDonald's restaurants in Japan and many other businesses.

The ordeal darkened public perception of major trade portals such as the Long Beach and Los Angeles ports, which together process 40% of the nation's incoming container cargo. Experts said that members of the Pacific Maritime Assn. — large shipping lines and port terminal operators — and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union have a hard fight ahead to win back respect and lost customers.

"I think the parties have an understanding of the impact of this disruption," U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez said in an interview. "They understand that they not only have to restore service, they have to restore confidence."

Perez was dispatched by President Obama to meet with employers and the union last week and urge settlement on a new contract. A few months after the last contract expired in July, activity at the ports began to dramatically slow and each side blamed the other.

Shaming appears to have been among the tactics used to encourage a resolution.

On Wednesday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti joined the talks and told negotiators that they were wasting time with internal squabbles as competition loomed from ports in Mexico and the opening of a widened Panama Canal due next year.

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US Congress steps up pressure on ILWU, PMA to reach deal

Feb 02, 2015 3:01PM EST

The U.S. Congress is stepping up its pressure on the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association to reach a “swift resolution” to their 9-month-old contract negotiations.

Eighty-four U.S. House members have signed a letter urging the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association to reach a deal to end the economic pain rippling through supply chains. Although more members of Congress are wading into the the issue, there’s little that lawmakers can do except to urge the two sides to reach agreement.

The most recent letter was organized by Reps. Dave Weichert, R-Wash., and Kurt Schrader, D-Ore. It followed a letter by the co-chairs of the bipartisan, 90-member Congressional Ports Caucus urging both sides “to reach a mutually acceptable resolution.”

Rep. Janice Hahn, D-Calif., whose district includes the Los Angeles-Long Beach port area, later criticized employers when they quit hiring night work gangs in response to what the PMA said were ILWU-orchestrated slowdowns.

Last November, the six U.S. senators from California, Washington and Oregon signed a letter urging the two sides to reach agreement.

There’s been some discussion of bringing longshore labor relations under the Railway Labor Act, which covers the railroad and airline industries, but such a change would encounter strong opposition and has not been seriously pursued.

Former Rep. Jack Kingston, a Republican who represented Georgia's first congressional district from 1993 until this year, said West Coast congestion and longshore labor get little attention in comparision with other subjects. "I think right now things are kind of quiet and focused on the world of other issues, like Isis and healthcare and things like that, so it's not a top-tier issue," he told

The letter from the 84 House members to ILWU President Robert McEllrath and PMA President James McKenna indicated that some lawmakers are paying attention. The House members said port delays are being “felt in all parts of the supply chain and across the entire country. Our constituents are losing business, letting employees go, and worrying about the future.”

The letter cited a report last year by the National Retail Federation and National Association of Manufacturers estimating that a 10-day shutdown of West Coast ports would cost the economy more than $21 billion.

Even without a port shutdown, companies are incurring costs and lost sales from delays at the ports. Retailers and manufacturers have had to reroute shipments, and agricultural exporters say they’re being shut out of overseas markets. Meat and poultry producer Tyson Foods said last week that the delays are affecting export supply chains and soon could be felt by livestock producers

Contact Joseph Bonney at and follow him on Twitter: @JosephBonney.

Courtesy of

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Vessels backing up at an alarming rate on the West Coast

 | Jan 28, 2015 9:21PM EST

Vessels are backing up at an alarming rate at West Coast ports due to congested marine terminals and work slowdowns by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.

The Marine Exchange of Southern California reported Wednesday that 17 container ships were at anchor and awaiting berths in Los Angeles-Long Beach. Oakland reported that five container ships were at anchor, and Tacoma reported six at anchor.

This is a dangerous condition because vessel backlogs upset the weekly scheduled sailings from Asia to the West Coast, and that has a cascading effect throughout the market. The Paris-based consultancy Alphaliner reported this week that vessels have been thrown off schedule by as many as three weeks, forcing carriers to add 36 additional ships to their trans-Pacific rotations to the West Coast. Furthermore, some carriers are running “extra-loaders” on all-water services to the East Coast. These unscheduled, single-voyage vessels carry cargo that would otherwise have moved through the West Coast.

Port congestion on the West Coast has been building since last summer, and Alphaliner said that it is now the “worst-ever case of U.S. port congestion on record,” an observation that’s hard to argue with.

Meanwhile, contract negotiations between the ILWU and the Pacific Maritime Association are on-going and were continuing all day on Wednesday, said ILWU spokesman Craig Merrilees. Negotiations began on May 12, 2014. The ILWU has been working without a contract since the previous agreement expired on July 1.

West Coast ports have struggled with mounting congestion since last summer. A number of factors contributed to the problem, including big ships operated by carrier alliances that generate huge container volumes in a single vessel call. In Los Angeles-Long Beach, the largest vessels generate as many as 10,000 container moves per call. Since the vessels carry containers from as many as six different carriers, the containers are spread out over multiple terminals, creating a logistical nightmare for truckers and equipment providers. Chassis shortages and dislocations and service issues on the transcontinental rail networks compounded the congestion problems.

Port congestion deteriorated rapidly at the end of October when the ILWU implemented work slowdowns in Seattle-Tacoma and Oakland. The PMA said the slowdowns were orchestrated by the union to exert leverage in the contract negotiations. In Los Angeles-Long Beach, the ILWU cut down the daily dispatch of skilled yard crane operators from 110 to 35, bringing the largest U.S. port complex to near gridlock, the PMA has stated.

The ILWU blames the gridlock and backlog of vessels at anchor on two issues -- pre-existing port congestion since last summer and a decision by employers late last year to suspend all night shifts at Seattle, Tacoma and Oakland, and to suspend vessel unloading (but not yard and gate operations) on the night shifts in Los Angeles-Long Beach.

The PMA said that since terminals in Southern California are operating at 95 to 97 percent of capacity, employers decided to suspend vessel unloading on the night shifts in order to clear out some of the container backlog in the yards to make room for containers to be discharged on the next morning when vessel unloading resumed.

Contract negotiations in San Francisco have been held under the auspices of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service since Jan. 6. A possibly significant breakthrough was made on Monday when the PMA confirmed that a tentative agreement had been reached on the issue of ILWU jurisdiction over container maintenance and repair. That issue had been holding up the negotiations since the beginning of the year.

However, other issues such as wages, pensions and the length of the new contract must still be resolved.

The congestion is also showing up in diversion of cargo to ports in Canada and on the U.S. East Coast. Container volume in Los Angeles-Long Beach declined 1 percent in December compared to December 2013, while East Coast gateways as well as Prince Rupert, Canada, were reporting double-digit growth.

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West Coast newspapers side with port employers in call for federal mediation

JOC Staff | Jan 05, 2015 10:39AM EST

Two more U.S. West Coast newspapers have come out in support of a federal mediator to enter the stalled and increasingly acrimonious West Coast longshore negotiations, effectively siding with employers who have called for mediation.

The International Longshore and Warehouse has not agreed to mediation through a spokesman told the Seattle Times on Friday that the option is under consideration.

The editorials further ramp up public pressure on the union to agree to mediation as a way to resolve negotiations under way since May with no resolution after months of disruption on the docks that have led to delays losses for importers and exporters. They follow earlier editorials in December calling for mediation and criticizing the stalemate. The new editorials, in the Seattle Times and Long Beach Press Telegram, were balanced in not blaming one side or the other for the impasse.

In an editorial on Jan. 4, the Seattle Times said, “It’s time for a mediator to help forge an agreement to get ports functioning at full speed again,” citing the impact on the state’s potato and apple crops. “Instead of improving the movement of goods and making the ports more efficient, the stalemate is hurting the trade industry that is vital to Washington’s economy.”

The Long Beach Press Telegram said in an editorial that the ongoing impasse and its impact is “simply inexcusable. Enough is enough. It’s time to call in a federal mediator and resolve contract negotiations.”

The two sides, it said, “should go to the table in front of a federal mediator and argue their cases. Let an objective third party handle the sticky labor issues of pensions, work rules and jurisdiction.”

The New Year began with no breakthrough in sight. The Pacific Maritime Association, which represents employers, moved forward last week with a plan to call out fewer dockworkers to work ships saying the marine terminal container yards are full due to what it says is the ILWU’s refusal to provide adequate labor to work the yards.

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