Shippers: ILA strike would cause undue harm to US economy

Dive Brief:

  • The Agriculture Transportation Council, The National Retail Federation, and the National Industrial Transportation League have all expressed deep concern regarding the pending International Longshormen's Association (ILA) strike, American Shipper reported Friday.
  • Whether through issued statements or by letter to Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, each group predicts irreversible harm and lost business to foreign competition as a result of any port shutdowns.
  • In particular, the National Industrial Transportation League is urging both the ILA and the USMX to resolve their differences to avoid negatively impacting U.S. workers and their employers seeking to maintain a competitive shipping schedule to global customers.

Dive Insight:

With talks of a potential East Coast and Gulf Coast shutdown being threatened within the next 30 days by the ILA, shippers and others affected by the possibility are beginning to fear the economic consequences. The last shutdown closed ports on the West Coast for 10 days in 2014 due to delayed contract negotiations by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and their employers, and is estimated to have cost the U.S. economy approximately $1.9 billion per day. 

"Thousands of companies and millions of workers rely on these ports and any disruption to their activity even for a day could have a negative impact on the U.S. economy," NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jon Gold said in a press release. The Port of New York and New Jersey alone handles roughly $547 million in goods each day, Hellenic Shipping News reports, and the indirect costs of a general shutdown would likely extend for various days. 

The issues driving members of the ILA seem rooted in frustration, not only about automation replacing jobs, but about the Port of Charleston using non-union labor, and the Port of New Jersey suffering from unnecessary oversight which in turn hampers business. The New Jersey issue was nearly resolved two years ago, when state senators voted 75-0 to eliminate the troublesome Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor, only to fail when vetoed by Governor Chris Christie.

Though recent talks between the ILA and the USMX have been called productive by both sides, the ILA appears poised to use its leverage for not just a strike, but also a march on the nation's capital. No dates have yet been set for either a strike or a march, despite rising coverage. Information regarding both has come only through an ILA press release by a PR firm, although no official release has been posted on the union's website.

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Filed Under: Freight