Nearly 100 trade associations from around the country — groups representing the interests of retailers, manufacturers, farmers and transportation companies — sent a letter today asking President Obama to help end a strike that has crippled operations in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
“We recognize the difficulties of government intervention in labor disputes. However, this dispute has already harmed many economic interests across the country, as evidenced by the organizations listed below,” said the letter, which is signed by 98 organizations, ranging from national groups, such as U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Industrial Transportation League and National Retail Federation, to local groups scattered across the country, such as the California Trucking Association, Midwest Shippers Association, and Coalition of New England Companies for Trade.
The letter urges President Obama “to take immediate action and use whatever means necessary, including Taft-Hartley, to get labor back to work in the nation’s largest ports.
“In the past six days, ocean carriers have begun to divert cargo to Mexico and Canada because there is great concern that diverting cargo to other U.S. ports would only widen the labor actions,” the groups wrote in their letter. “Meanwhile, ships are beginning to back up in the harbor and port terminal operators are running out of room to store empty containers and other intermodal equipment.
“Even if labor returned to work today, it would take several weeks to undo the gridlock this disruption has already set in motion” the groups said.
They are asking the president to “quickly engage in the dispute to end the work stoppage.”
On Nov. 27, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 63 Office Clerical Unit, representing about 600 workers, broke off contract negotiations with 14 employers in the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports.
The OCU set up picket lines at 10 of the 14 terminals operating at the two ports and other ILWU units have refused to cross these pickets, “effectively shutting down the nation’s largest port complex.”
The trade groups said if the labor stoppage is not “quickly remedied, far more dire consequences will result, including:
- Manufacturers requiring parts for their production lines may have to suspend operations.
- Exporters will fail to meet delivery times for their customers in the Far East.
- Exporters of perishable cargos have already been affected.
- Agricultural interests will have to divert production to domestic use, or freeze produce, instead of shipping it fresh, thereby losing significant economic value.
- Retailers will be unable to get goods to their store shelves in a timely fashion.
- Importers, wholesalers, and U.S. consumer brands will face order cancellations if they cannot meet delivery dates.
“While this labor dispute has affected fewer ports than the coast-wide lockout of 2002, the Los Angeles and Long Beach port facilities are the nation’s busiest and critical for many exporters and importers doing business in the Pacific Rim,” the groups said.
The letter said the 2002 labor dispute, which lasted for 10 days, cost the U.S. economy $1 billion a day. - Chris Dupin