The West Coast Port Negotiations are on the verge of quickly deteriorating. The following letter was signed by Inland Action urging the administration to engage both involved parties to resolve issues before a costly shut down occurs.
November 10, 2014
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
The undersigned associations representing United States manufacturers, farmers, wholesalers, retailers, importers and transportation and logistics providers are writing to express our deep concern about the increasing potential for a shutdown of West Coast ports, and to seek your help to ensure that such a shutdown does not occur.
The ongoing labor contract negotiations between the International Longshoremen and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) began on May 15, 2014 and seem to have made very little progress since the contract expired on July 1, 2014.
Earlier this year, the parties to the negotiation stated that they would remain at the table and cargo would continue to flow. However, since September we have seen crisis levels of congestion at the ports. While some of this congestion is the result of other factors, on Monday November 3, the Pacific Maritime Association broke silence and, in a press release, accused the ILWU of engaging in labor practices that were designed to intentionally disrupt the flow of cargo. The ILWU fired back, denying this charge.
The sudden change in tone is alarming. It suggests that we may be days or hours away from a full shutdown of every port on the West Coast, thereby impacting thousands of jobs, down-stream consumers, and the business operations of exporters, importers, retailers, and manufacturers.
Just the threat of a West Coast port shutdown creates a level of uncertainty in a fragile economic climate which has forced many businesses to once again undertake contingency plans that come at a significant cost to jobs and our economic competitiveness. The West Coast lockout 10 years ago cost the U.S. economy $1 billion a day. It took half a year for the ports to clear the backlog and recover from this 10-day shut down. A shutdown now could be even more costly.
Our organizations believe that both parties can reach an agreement that will ensure the continued success and competitiveness of these ports for the foreseeable future. However, we would like to see an agreement reached without any shutdowns.
For these reason, we urge you to take immediate action and use all of the options available to you to head off a shut-down and to keep the parties at the negotiating table. At the least, we believe the time is ripe for you to engage both parties and urge the intervention of a federal mediator. Even if both parties refuse federal mediation, we believe it’s critical for the FMCS to begin carefully monitoring the negotiations, because in the event of a strike or lockout, we believe that the use of Taft Hartley relief would be justified in this instance.
Thank you for your consideration.
cc: Members of Congress
Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx
Department of Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker
Department of Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez
Federal Maritime Commission Chairman Mario Cordero
Federal Mediations and Conciliation Service Acting Director Allison Beck
The Honorable Jerry Brown, Governor of California
The Honorable Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington
The Honorable John Kitzhaber, Governor of Oregon