Obama sends Labor chief into port
Keith Laing – Source “The
Hill” in Washington
President Obama is sending Labor Secretary Tom Perez to
negotiate a resolution to a labor standoff that has shut down 29 ports along
the West Coast.
White House Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz said Saturday that Perez is
reaching out to port managers and leaders of the International Longshore and
Warehouse Union (ILWU), which represents dock workers, to facilitate a deal
to resolve the long-running port standoff.
"The negotiations over the functioning of the West Coast Ports have been
taking place for months with the Administration urging the parties to resolve
their differences," Schultz said.
"Out of concern for the economic consequences of
further delay, the President has directed his Secretary of Labor Tom Perez
travel to California to meet with the parties to urge them to resolve their
dispute quickly at the bargaining table," he continued. "Secretary
Perez is already in contact with the parties and will keep the president
The White House has been facing pressure to intervene in the dispute, which is
threatening the flow of cargo packages to cities as far away as Chicago.
At issue is a labor contract between the port operators and the ILWU that was
supposed to expire in July.
Negotiators have been unable to agree to anything more than temporary
extensions, and a federal mediator brought in resolve the issues has also
been unable to forge a deal.
The decision by the administration to send Perez to California will be widely
seen as a response to the calls for greater involvement from Washington.
The Pacific Maritime Association, which handles labor negotiations for port
managers, said this week that it is closing ports in Washington, Oregon and
California that normally process 340 million tons of cargo from Feb. 12-16
due to allegedly unfair contract demands and work slowdowns that it says are
being conducted by the dockworkers union.
“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 spokesman Wade
Gates said in a statement.
The dockworkers union has offered a starkly different take, arguing that
managers are needlessly closing the West Coast ports “to divide us.”
“They’re using lies and tactics to turn the public against and town locals
against the negotiating committee, and the rank-and-file against each other,”
ILWU President Robert McEllrath said in a video
that was posted on the union’s website.
“We want to go to work, and they’re blaming us,” he continued. “There’s space
on the docks to unload vessels, there’s cargo to be delivered, and we’re here
to do it.”
Lawmakers who represent districts near ports on the West
Coast applauded the White House's decision to get involved in the labor
"President Obama has just announced that he is
sending Labor Secretary Tom Perez to negotiate a much-needed agreement
between ILWU and PMA," Rep. Janice Hahn (D-Calif.) said in a statement
that was provided to The Hill.
"I spoke to Secretary Perez on Thursday about the
negotiations at our port and the need for a quick resolution," Hahn continued.
"I am encouraged by this development and I hope that Secretary Perez
will work to keep both sides at the table and help them find a resolution
that keeps our ports open and our workers on the job."
Our regulatory experts are monitoring the
situation and keeping a close eye on labor negotiations, which began on May
12, 2014. In the meantime we are checking shipment status on a daily/hourly
basis to see where our client’s cargo stands in movement towards its final
destination. While we can’t control the situation we can keep you informed.
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