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Coalition Urges White House Intervention in Port Talks

A coalition of shippers and transportation interests including the NAM is urging the White House to intervene in the nearly year-long West Coast labor negotiations, according to S&P Journal of Commerce (subscription).

What’s going on: The appeal to President Biden follows recent reports of growing tensions in the 10-month-long discussions between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association. The two are meant to be hammering out the details of a multiyear work contract.

  • Earlier this month, dockworkers stopped staggering shifts during meal times. The PMA said that this forced terminals to shut down for two hours each day, leading to cargo-operations delays and truck backups.
  • “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,” the coalition told the Biden administration.

Why it’s important: West Coast ports have lost cargo to the East and Gulf coasts as shippers try to avoid disruption caused by the labor uncertainty.

  • This operational shift—particularly if it continues or appears to be permanent—increases ship, truck and container congestion at eastern ports and will drive up spot shipping rates. In the longer term, it would necessitate shipping-infrastructure reorganization.
  • “Data from PIERS, a sister product of the Journal of Commerce within S&P Global, shows that the share of Asian imports landing on the West Coast in February slipped to 53.2 percent, down from 54.5 percent in January and 60.4 percent last May when ILWU-PMA contract talks began.”

The last word: “We know that significant issues remain for both parties to resolve,” the coalition continued. “However, the only way to resolve these issues is for the parties to remain at the bargaining table and actually negotiate. We encourage the administration to provide any and all support to the parties in their negotiations to reach a final agreement.” 

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