Dozens of business and industry groups once again called for a new labor agreement that would keep West Coast ports operating and head off a possible strike.
In an open letter to President Biden, the groups asked for the administration to name a new “point person” to engage the parties, following the departure of Marty Walsh from the Secretary of Labor role.
The plea comes amid uncertainty caused by the contract expiration months ago between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and Pacific Maritime Association.
“Negotiations have been ongoing for over ten months, with little to no progress towards a new long-term agreement,” the groups wrote. “It is imperative that the administration work with the parties to quickly reach a new agreement and ensure there is no disruption to port operations and cargo fluidity.”
Business groups large and small signed the letter, including the American Apparel & Footwear Association, American Bankers Association, National Retail Federation, National Electrical Manufacturers Association, Retail Industry Leaders Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and many more.
They noted in the letter that businesses are already making ocean shipping decisions for peak season, and that some have diverted cargo around the West Coast ports because of operational uncertainty around the possibility of a strike or lockout.
Negotiators circulated a press release in February that they were “hopeful of reaching a deal soon,” with a tentative agreement on some key issues. Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka also said in February that he expected progress on a deal during the spring.
Since then, signs of some tension have emerged. One union’s workers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, for example, took their lunches all at once, creating operational disruptions as a result, according to the PMA.
Businesses are adding pressure for the parties to cut a deal.
“We know that significant issues remain for both parties to resolve. However, the only way to resolve these issues is for the parties to remain at the bargaining table and actually negotiate,” the industry groups said in the letter. “We encourage the administration to provide any and all support to the parties in their negotiations to reach a final agreement.”
Here’s a look at our past coverage of the negotiations and their implications for shippers and industry: