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  November 7th, 2014 | Written by

White House Engagement Urged in Port Dispute

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Los Angeles, CA – Led by the National Retail Federation, a diverse coalition including retailers, manufacturers and farmers and other supply chain stakeholders has addressed a letter to the White House urging the government’s immediate involvement in the on-going contract negotiations between the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU).

Port terminal management represented by the PMA and the leadership of the ILWU have held talks since May, but have yet to approve a final agreement on a contract that expired in July, which covers dockworkers at 29 U.S. West Coast ports from Seattle to San Diego.

While the two parties have said they would remain at the negotiating table until a new deal is struck, recent labor activities – most recently at the Port of Seattle and Port of Tacoma – “have led to a noticeable uptick in rhetoric and tensions that is causing the nation’s importers and exporters anxiety and alarm,” the letter said.

“The sudden change in tone is alarming and suggests that a full shutdown of every West Coast port may be imminent,” it read. “The impact this would have on jobs, down-stream consumers, and the business operations of exporters, importers, retailers, transportation providers, manufacturers, and other stakeholders would be catastrophic.”

The coalition detailed what it asserts would be the impact of a port shutdown, including damaging the viability of the West Coast ports and the economic consequences of disrupting the supply chain.

The group called on the Obama Administration “to become engaged in the contract negotiations before a disruption can occur,” and recommended the use of a federal mediator to forestall any threat of a management-directed lockout or labor-initiated strike.

“We believe immediate action is necessary and the federal government’s use of all of its available options would be helpful in heading off a shutdown and keeping the parties at the negotiating table,” the letter said.

The NRF and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) issued an economic analysis in June that found a port shutdown would cost the U.S. economy approximately $2 billion a day.

The NRF-NAM analysis estimated that a 5-day stoppage at ports on the U.S. West Coast would reduce U.S. GDP by $1.9 billion a day. This would increase exponentially with a 20-day stoppage resulting in a loss of $2.5 billion a day.

The last prolonged port shutdown of the ports was the 10-day lockout in 2002 which took months to recover from and cost the U.S. economy close to an estimated $1 billion a day.