Pressure Builds on White House to Take Port Action
Los Angeles, CA – Pressure is building on the White House to appoint a federal mediator to broker a new labor contract between U.S. West Coast union dock workers and the terminal operators that employ them at 29 U.S. West Coast ports from Bellingham, Washington, to San Diego.
The latest call for action comes from the executive directors of the Port of Los Angeles and the Port Long Beach, as a work slowdown at the nation’s two top-ranking containerports has eroded dramatically since both the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) ended an unsuccessful round of talks in October.
The PMA has charged the ILWU is filling only about 50 percent of the work orders for skilled equipment operators needed for yard work, while the union insists the admittedly slowed pace is a result of a chronic list of problems that range from working the latest generation of mega-containerships to a shortage of chassis and what they call “terminal mismanagement.”
“Enough is enough. These guys have to get back to work,” said Jon Slangerup, executive director of the Port of Long Beach, at a recent maritime industry event.
Slangerup and Gene Seroka, executive director of the neighboring Port of Los Angeles, have joined a growing number of representatives from both the public and private sectors publicly urging President Obama to name a Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service representative to end the impasse and get both groups to come to an agreement and end the crippling work slowdown.
Over the past several weeks, the two largest industry groups in the country – the National Retail Federation and the National Association of Manufacturers – have ramped-up their efforts to get the White House to act with U.S. Senators and House delegations from California, Washington, and Oregon and the mayors of several cities including Los Angeles and Long Beach have written President Obama urging him to appoint a mediator.
Agricultural exporters have reported the shipping delays are backing up supply lines and creating serious economic damage, hurting their reputation among overseas buyers.
Obama’s only statement on the situation was issued in mid-November, when an Administration spokesman said that the president was “confident the two sides” will reach a contract.
The situation, said Slangerup, “has gotten worse. That should send a clear signal to the White House that it is time for action. The president has to act. It is long overdue.”