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 February 16, 2015       

 

Obama sends Labor chief into port dispute

 

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By Keith Laing – Source “The Hill” in Washington

 

President Obama is sending Labor Secretary Tom Perez to negotiate a resolution to a labor standoff that has shut down 29 ports along the West Coast.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz said Saturday that Perez is reaching out to port managers and leaders of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), which represents dock workers, to facilitate a deal to resolve the long-running port standoff.

"The negotiations over the functioning of the West Coast Ports have been taking place for months with the Administration urging the parties to resolve their differences," Schultz said.

"Out of concern for the economic consequences of further delay, the President has directed his Secretary of Labor Tom Perez travel to California to meet with the parties to urge them to resolve their dispute quickly at the bargaining table," he continued. "Secretary Perez is already in contact with the parties and will keep the president fully updated."

The White House has been facing pressure to intervene in the dispute, which is threatening the flow of cargo packages to cities as far away as Chicago.

At issue is a labor contract between the port operators and the ILWU that was supposed to expire in July.

Negotiators have been unable to agree to anything more than temporary extensions, and a federal mediator brought in resolve the issues has also been unable to forge a deal.

The decision by the administration to send Perez to California will be widely seen as a response to the calls for greater involvement from Washington.

The Pacific Maritime Association, which handles labor negotiations for port managers, said this week that it is closing ports in Washington, Oregon and California that normally process 340 million tons of cargo from Feb. 12-16 due to allegedly unfair contract demands and work slowdowns that it says are being conducted by the dockworkers union.

“What they’re doing amounts to a strike with pay, and we will reduce the extent to which we pay premium rates for such a strike,” PMA spokesman Wade Gates said in a statement.

The dockworkers union has offered a starkly different take, arguing that managers are needlessly closing the West Coast ports “to divide us.”

“They’re using lies and tactics to turn the public against and town locals against the negotiating committee, and the rank-and-file against each other,” ILWU President Robert McEllrath said in a video that was posted on the union’s website.

“We want to go to work, and they’re blaming us,” he continued. “There’s space on the docks to unload vessels, there’s cargo to be delivered, and we’re here to do it.”

Lawmakers who represent districts near ports on the West Coast applauded the White House's decision to get involved in the labor fight.

"President Obama has just announced that he is sending Labor Secretary Tom Perez to negotiate a much-needed agreement between ILWU and PMA," Rep. Janice Hahn (D-Calif.) said in a statement that was provided to The Hill.

"I spoke to Secretary Perez on Thursday about the negotiations at our port and the need for a quick resolution," Hahn continued. "I am encouraged by this development and I hope that Secretary Perez will work to keep both sides at the table and help them find a resolution that keeps our ports open and our workers on the job."

 

Our regulatory experts are monitoring the situation and keeping a close eye on labor negotiations, which began on May 12, 2014. In the meantime we are checking shipment status on a daily/hourly basis to see where our client’s cargo stands in movement towards its final destination. While we can’t control the situation we can keep you informed.

 

 The information contained in this newsletter has been compiled from various industry newsletters and other public sources. While we use reasonable efforts to furnish accurate and up-to-date information Page & Jones, Inc. is not liable or responsible for the accuracy or reliability of any information contained herein.

 



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