Shippers are asking the White House for help in ending the three-day-old strike by longshoremen in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the nation's largest.
In a letter to President Obama. Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) President Sandy Kennedy
said "given the enormous risk posed by a prolonged shutdown of the
nation’s busiest ports, we urge you to consider all options, including
invoking the Taft-Hartley Act, in order to restore the critical flow of
commerce. We respectfully ask that you put the weight of
the White House behind resolving this dispute.”
The National Retail Federation also asked President Obama “to use all means necessary” to restart stalled contract negotiations
between management and striking union workers at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
The White House press office did not respond to a query from American Shipper
about the strike.
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 Office Clerical Unit has placed pickets outside a majority of terminals at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and other longshoremen are refusing to cross the picket lines. As a result, ships are not being loaded or unloaded and trucks and trains cannot move containers on or off 10 terminals. A spokesman at the Port of Los Angeles said the Maritime Exchange of Southern California reported there were 23 vessels in the port, including 17 at berth and six at anchor.
The Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbor Employers Association, which represents 14 companies that employ ILWU Local 63 OCU clerks said they welcomed a call by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa
for the two sides to meet with a mediator in an effort to resolve the dispute with the union.
The two sides met Thursday evening and are scheduled to meet again today, according to Steve Getzug, a spokesman for the harbor employers. The talks will not, however, affect the picket lines.
The Los Angeles Times
reported that two ships have been diverted to other ports, one to Oakland and another to an unnamed port in Mexico.
NRF noted that in 2002 a 10-day lockout at West Coast ports led to significant supply chain disruptions, which took six months to remedy, and cost the economy an estimated $1 billion a day.
That dispute was ended when President George W. Bush used the Taft Hartley Act to end the labor dispute.
While rarely used today, Taft Hartley has been used numerous times in the past
to end labor disputes involving longshoremen. There was speculation that it might have been used had contract talks between employers and the longshoremen union that represents workers at East and Gulf Coast ports, the International Longshoremen's Association, broken down earlier this year during the peak season for shipping Christmas merchandise.
While the ILA and employers--represented by an organization called the United States Maritime Alliance--failed to reach an agreement before their contract expired on September 30, they agreed to extend their contract 90 days and keep talking. They are due to resume negotiations December 10 in Delray Bearch, Florida.
Meanwhile, on the West Coast, the ILWU said in a statement issued Thursday that a joint committee of management--who on the West Coast are represented by a group called the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA)-- and labor leaders had concluded that ILWU longshoremen had a contractual right to refuse to cross the OCU picket lines.
“The ILWU-PMA Coast Labor Relations Committee that establishes policy and administers the contract between the employer and union on the West Coast waterfront on Wednesday agreed that ILWU Local 63 Office Clerical Unit (OCU) picket lines at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach were bona fide,” said the statement from the ILWU Coast Longshore Division. “The agreement confirms that longshoremen in ILWU Locals 13, 63 and 94 have the right to refuse to cross OCU pickets under the collective bargaining agreement between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association."
The ILWU statement further said “the Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbor though impacted, remains open for commerce at greater than 25 percent capacity.” In Los Angeles, seven of eight container terminals are open and in Long Beach three of six container terminals are open.
Craig Merrilees, communications director for the ILWU, said “hopefully, yesterday’s resolution on the legality of the strike will pave the way to tackle the central issue of outsourcing. Clerical workers are determined to stop good jobs from disappearing in the harbor area – and reappearing in Texas and Taiwan.”
Ray Ortiz Jr., an ILWU Coast Committeeman who represents all 30 longshore local unions on the West Coast, said “Longshoremen stand up when other workers need our help. Sure it's sacrifice to give up a paycheck when you refuse to cross the picket, but we believe it’s in the long-term interest of the Los Angeles-Long Beach Harbor area to retain these good local jobs. By standing with OCU, we stand with the community.”
John Fageaux, president of ILWU Local 63 OCU, said earlier this week that phone calls by union representatives were listened to by APMT employees.
Alan McCorkle, senior vice president of APM Terminals’ Los Angeles, said his company was “concerned about these allegations. It is not our policy to listen to union calls. As is our normal policy, we have commenced an investigation and we have no further comment at this time.” - Chris Dupin