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Previously from JJB

February 18, 2015/  Volume 2015, Issue 6

Obama Sends Secretary of Labor to Assist Mediation of ILWU/PMA Labor Dispute

Dear Valued Customer,


President Obama has sent Labor Secretary Tom Perez to get involved in the contract negotiations between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and employers represented by the Pacific Maritime Association. Perez had positive and productive meetings with the leadership of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association on Tuesday. Both parties agreed to a 48-hour news blackout in a bargaining session on Thursday.


The involvement by Perez comes as congestion continues to build outside West Coast ports. The Marine Exchange of Southern California reports that 32 ships were at anchor outside the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach on Tuesday morning for congestion reasons.


"Secretary Perez made clear that the dispute has led to a very negative impact on the U.S. economy, and further delay risks tens of thousands of jobs and will cost American businesses hundreds of millions of dollars," Labor Department spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa said in a statement Tuesday evening. Perez urged the parties "to come to an immediate agreement to prevent further damage to our economy," she said. More talks were scheduled for Wednesday.


On Wednesday last week, PMA said it would not employ ILWU workers to operate cranes to load and unload ship on Thursday, Lincoln's Birthday, Saturday, Sunday or Monday, Washington's Birthday. It took similar action the prior weekend. PMA had said it had made the decision to "temporarily suspend premium-pay weekend and holiday vessel operations" because of "ongoing and costly ILWU slowdowns." It said weekend and holiday pay rates command a premium of at least 50 percent of the basic longshore wage rate. "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 said. "However, yard, gate and rail operations will continue at terminal operators' discretion."


The work slowdowns by the ILWU and the suspension of weekend and holiday labor by the PMA are negatively impacting cargo volumes at the West Coast ports. The Port of Oakland in northern California said its containerized cargo volumes were down 32 percent across its terminals in January. The port blamed the decline on "slowdowns arising from a dispute between dockworkers and employers over a new contract." The port also said importers have begun diverting containerized cargo to gateways outside the U.S. West Coast. These include ports in Canada, Mexico and the U.S. East Coast. It added that exporters have been challenged in shipping cargo to overseas markets because of vessel delays and diversions.


Effects of the port slowdowns have rippled through the U.S. economy, extending to agriculture, manufacturing, retail and transportation.


The Agriculture Transportation Coalition said, "After nine months of little visible action from the White House, this (intervention by Labor Secretary Perez) comes just days after a large bipartisan group of congresspersons led by Reps. Reichert, R-Wash.; Kurt Schrader, D-Ore.; and Greg Walden, R-Ore., conducted a press conference, after AgTC delivered letters from 359 Oregon agriculture companies/associations and 222 Washington ag interests to the Oregon and Washington congressional delegations, and the entire Oregon congressional delegation sent strong letters to the president urging decisive action."


The Consumer Electronics Association also launched a grassroots letter campaign Feb. 12 warning of a shutdown and calling for increased involvement from Congress and the White House (here).


Juanita D. Duggan, president and chief executive officer of the American Apparel & Footwear Association, said "By sending the secretary of labor to intervene, the administration is sending a strong signal that this is a serious issue with real economic consequences that needs to be resolved, and resolved quickly.


James J. Boyle & Co. will continue to monitor and report significant updates as they develop.


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Kent Sunakoda


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Lisa Whiles


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Terry Pilant 


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Connie Arimoto


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