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We’re two days away from the long-planned East/Gulf Coast port strike. My most recent column on the Big Labor agitation exposed the archaic work practices and corrupt waterfront rackets at issue. Here’s the very latest:
Florida’s Gov. Rick Scott is calling on President Obama to intervene:
Governor Rick Scott is holding a news conference this morning with port leaders around the state.
It comes as the threat of a strike by dock workers looms large for ports along the east coast and the Gulf of Mexico.
The International Longshoremen’s contract is up on Saturday, and there is serious worry that if a new deal is not done, a work stoppage could lead to a shutdown at ports all up and down the east coast.
That could mean serious issues for many businesses that rely on those ports to get billions of dollars worth of cargo in and out; almost 15,000 workers at ports from New York to Houston.
Contract talks haven’t been going well and broke off a couple of days ago.
President Obama does have the power to step in, and Governor Scott did send him a letter last week asking him to do just that to prevent a work stoppage at each port.
Matt Lehrich, a White House spokesman, declined to comment beyond a statement last week that the administration was monitoring the situation and urged the parties “to continue their work at the negotiating table to get a deal done as quickly as possible.”
Talks have resumed, but details are sketchy:
This week’s announcement that the International Longshoremen’s Association and the U.S. Maritime Alliance will go back to the negotiation table to avert a longshoreman’s strike that would close 15 ports from Massachusetts to Texas may have retailers and manufacturers cautiously optimistic about a deal, but details about when and where that meeting will be are being kept close to the vest.
Retailers are holding their breath:
As the nation’s shipping community, from auto manufacturers and farmers to retailers and truckers, prepares for the highly anticipated supply chain disruption this coming Sunday, December 29, there is an 11th hour move – orchestrated by Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service – designed to bring the union and management together one last time to avert the pending ‘container cliff.’
Late Monday, FMCS Director George Cohen announced that the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA), who represents the dockworkers, and the United States Maritime Alliance (USMX), who represents the terminal operators, agreed to meet before the contract extension expires on December 29. Keeping with FMCS protocol, the meeting’s details are confidential.
This last ditch effort by the FMCS is truly the supply chain’s last best hope to prevent an East and Gulf Coast port strike at the nation’s 14 container ports.
A reader in New Jersey e-mails about the consequences for his business and employees:
I sure do hope your wrong about President Obama, sitting on the sidelines, not willing to intervene.
My company, a little more then a year old and doing well, would probably crumble, from the lack of revenue. We are 90%, sustained by full container trucking and warehousing, from the port of NY/NJ. I stand to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars of my initial investments, and my employees, 42 in total, would be on the unemployment line. I don’t have the cash flow to sustain a situation like this, It would be catastrophic, for the President not to step in and put an end to this. My nay sayer’s, thought I was nuts to open a warehouse/trucking company, due to the economy being in such bad shape, I believed it would get better and I would capitalize on the more inexpensive, start up rates, I would be paying, it worked out just as I predicted. Unbelievable, that what is going to put me out of business is an ILA strike, CRAZY!!!
And a reader in Georgia shares her story:
The strike looming at the ports on the east cost will have devastating effects that are not even being considered or mentioned by the lame stream media.
I live near Savannah, GA. A huge number of families in this area depend on the port for their livlihood through the drivers that haul the containers once they come off the ship. Most of the drivers are owner/operators making maybe $1.00 a mile driving a truck that gets MAYBE 6 mpg from diesel that is $4.00+ a gallon. A good week will see these men and women clearing maybe $400-$500. That’s after fuel expenses, escrowing money for maintenance, tires ($800 per tire is not unusual), 50% for taxes and money to eat at truck stops. These people have not seen a raise in 5+ years, their working conditions are horrible and the companies they lease to know they don’t have to treat them any better than chattle because there’s always another poor slob that needs the miles.
If this strike lasts 2 week the vast majority of these drivers will be broke, they will start missing house payments, rent payments, electric, water, gas and phone bill payments. They will miss truck payments and will find themselves homeless and unemployed.
This is the outlook for hundreds of thousands of people on the east coast: Drivers, clerical, motel, fast food, maintenance and every other worker who is touched by the trucking of container frieght.
Why isn’t this in the mainstream media? Just wait until the ships are stacked off shore, the automobile factories in GA and SC have to close because they have no parts. The impact will devistate this country beyond anything that anyone outside the industry can imagine.
My husband used to haul containers. I am speaking from experience when I talk about how these people live hand to mouth on the edge.
Thanks for all you do to bring us the truth.
More pressure on Obama to act via The Hill this morning.
The outcome of the negotiations is a paramount concern for the retail and agriculture industries, which could see huge disruptions in their supply chains if the ports go dark. The ports that would be affected stretch from Boston down the coast to Houston.
The central sticking point in the talks is a royalty that the Maritime Alliance has paid the longshoremen since the 1960s. The fee was instituted to help offset the wages that were lost as the shipping industry transitioned to larger containers and fewer ships.
The Maritime Alliance says the time has come to cap the fees to reflect the downsizing of the workforce since the ’60s. It says the payments are “another form of compensation for ILA workers, who are among the nation’s most highly compensated.”
The longshoremen argue the fees are a vital supplement to their wages during slow shipping seasons and are resisting proposals to reduce them.
Businesses have watched the dispute unfold nervously, fearing a repeat of the port strike that crippled shipping routes 10 years ago.
“This could significantly impact the recovery,” said Jonathan Gold, the vice president of supply chain and customs policy with the National Retail Federation (NRF). “Look at what happened in 2002, when the shutdown on West Coast cost $1 billion a day and it took six months to recover. And that was in a much more stable economy.”
And more background on the container fee dispute via the WSJ this morning.
12/28 12:14pm Eastern
Federal mediators have secured a 30-day reprieve…kicking the can down the road…
A deal has been struck that for now averts a strike by 14,500 longshoremen at major ports on the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico, including PortMiami and Port Everglades.
A federal mediator announced Friday that an expired contract for workers in the International Association of Longshoremen would be extended for another 30 days while negotiations continue.
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