ATA, others push for action as more port strikes loom

PortThe American Trucking Associations is among the organizations asking President Obama intervene with workers at 14 East and Gulf coast ports vowing to strike when their current contract expires Dec. 30.

The ATA was one of 107 entities who signed the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association’s Dec. 20 letter to Obama. The Retail Industry Leaders Association had written the president as well, requesting that the president “put the weight of the White House behind resolving this dispute.”

The International Longshoremen’s Association has voted to strike when its current extension of its contract expires at midnight Dec. 29.

The United States Maritime Alliance, the organization representing port employers, issued a Dec. 21 plea for a commitment from “both sides” to reach agreement. RILA had asked for the president’s influence in “bringing the ILA and USMX back to the negotiating table.”

USMX’s appeal stated a work stoppage in ports Maine to Texas would have dire economic consequences and outcomes for all workers associated with the port. A shutdown in New York and New Jersey alone would result in $100 million in lost revenue per month for truckers and other transportation industries handling containers moving through these ports.

On Dec. 18, USMX agreed to, but ILA rejected, a short contract extension recommended by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service that would have facilitated bargaining continuing after Dec. 29.

The union’s issues include a demand for the Container Royalty Fund to remain unchanged from its current contract. The ILA said USMX wants a cash ceiling on how much money is put into the Container Royalty Fund for current workers and to eventually eliminate the fund.

The royalties began in the 1960s to protect New York union members from job losses created by containerization and its introduction of automated cargo.

The union’s workers in Los Angeles and Long Beach ports ended an eight-day strike Dec. 4 after finally agreeing on a contract. While the clerical workers were on strike, other union members refused to cross the picket line, forcing both ports to close most of its container terminals.

AAIA’s requested Obama consider evoking the Taft-Hartley Act. In 2002, President Bush used the 1947 labor law for the first time in decades to end an 11-day work stoppage.