Proposed PORTS Act Could Give U.S. Governors ‘Taft-Hartley’ Authority
Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) is sponsoring a bill that would amend the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) to give U.S. state governors a tool under federal law to mitigate the impact of port labor disputes.
The Act, co-sponsored by Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee), would discourage disruptions at U.S. seaports and incentivize speedy resolution of disputes by strengthening and expanding the well-known Taft Hartley process, which is already applicable to ports and includes 70 years of case law.
The bill, specifically known as the PORTS Act, would grant state governors the ‘Taft Hartley’ powers—powers that are currently reserved for the president—allowing governors to convene a “board of inquiry” and start the Taft Hartley process whenever a port labor dispute is causing economic harm.
The bill stipulates that, once the board reports, governors can petition federal courts to enjoin slowdowns, strikes, or lockouts at ports in their states.
“This year’s slowdown at the West Coast ports demonstrates the disastrous consequences that labor disputes at our ports can have on businesses, consumers, and the entire economy,” says Senator Gardner “Labor union bosses should not be allowed to hold the economy hostage,” he continues, “nor should they be allowed to use the livelihoods and jobs of millions of Americans as bargaining chips.”
In addition, the Act, he says, “would empower local leaders—who are most affected by these port disruptions—to apply pressure to their state governments to bring these damaging disputes to an end.”
TRADE GROUPS, GLOBAL BUSINESSES SUPPORT PROPOSED PORTS ACT
The bill has the support of over 100 business and trade associations including the Agricultural Transportation Coalition, Consumer Electronics Association, National Association of Manufacturers, the National Retail Federation, and U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The groups have sent a joint letter to Gardner that reads, in part: “This bill is critical to ensure that port disruptions resulting from labor contract negotiations do not negatively impact the U.S. economy. We believe this is a tool that will help provide certainty to future negotiations.”
“In coming years, freight volumes are expected to double and stability and efficiency within our nation’s ports and overall supply chain will be more critical than ever. The impact of the recent excruciating slowdown on the West Coast was challenging to overcome, but the impact of potential slowdowns or shutdowns and the resulting backups, delays, higher costs and lost productivity in the future could be even more devastating.
“These issues negatively impact employment throughout the supply chain, and put us in a weaker position with many of our trading partners around the globe. A well performing infrastructure and an efficient supply chain are vital to economic growth in the decades ahead.
“Now is the time to address the challenges that could disrupt that growth, and prepare ourselves for a future that gives American workers the opportunity to reap the benefits of an expanding global economy.”