Long Beach Container Terminal as seen from the Port of Los Angeles Friday, Feb. 11, 2022. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

Exports destined for Russia as well as imports from the warring nation will not be moved through the West Coast, with 20,000 workers at 29 seaports announcing their stand of solidarity with Ukraine.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents about 20,000 workers up and down the coast, announced last week that Russian goods will not be handled due to the country’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine, which officially began almost two weeks ago on Feb. 24.

“With this action in solidarity with the people of Ukraine, we send a strong message that we unequivocally condemn the Russian invasion,” ILWU International President Willie Adams said in a statement.

“West Coast dockworkers are proud to do our part to join with those around the world who are bravely taking a stand and making sacrifices for the good of Ukraine,” Adams added.

The impacts of the ILWU’s decision to forgo the movement of Russian goods will likely not exacerbate the ongoing supply chain crisis, according to a union spokesperson, given the number of U.S. businesses and governments that are already refusing to work with Russia.

At the San Pedro Bay ports, Russian goods make up only a tiny fraction of imports and exports. In Long Beach, trade with Russia only accounts for 0.04% of container cargo and 2-3% of oil. Similarly, at the Port of Long Angeles, trade with Russia is “negligible,” making up less than 0.2% of all cargo, according to spokeswoman Rachel Campbell.

“While a relatively small share of the Port’s trade is with Russia, the Port of Long Beach nevertheless stands in solidarity with the ILWU and the City of Long Beach,” Port of Long Beach spokesman Lee Peterson said in an email.

Similar to its relationship with other nations, including China, the United States suffers from a trade imbalance with Russia. The U.S. imports far more goods from the European-Asian nation than it exports to it.

The trade imbalance has favored Russia since the 1990s, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The imbalance grew almost every year from more than $231 million in 1996 to a peak of $26.3 billion in 2011.

During President Barack Obama’s second term, the imbalance steadily decreased to a low of just over $8.7 billion in 2016. However, the imbalance again trended upward following the election of President Donald Trump. By 2019, the imbalance had rebounded to nearly $16.5 billion.

The pandemic stifled the imbalance growth in 2020, as the trade industry was slammed by slowdowns due to sickness and other challenges related to the pandemic. The imbalance fell to just over $12 billion but bounced back to over $23.3 billion in 2021, its second-highest level ever.

Brandon Richardson is a reporter and photojournalist for the Long Beach Business Journal.