Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Trade Groups Urge Speedy Labor Contract

By Mark Edward Nero

On May 9, a broad coalition of industry trade groups sent a letter to the heads of the Pacific Maritime Association and International Longshore & Warehouse Union urging that a new labor contract be completed in an expeditious manner.

The letter, which was sent by dozens of groups, including the Retail Industry Leaders Association, American Trucking Associations, the California Trucking Association, Agriculture Transportation Coalition and Toy Industry Association, comes a month after the National Retail Federation sent its own letter to the PMA and ILWU urging a quick contract agreement.

The union and management are beginning talks to extend the current six-year labor contract, which ends June 30.

“Failure to reach an agreement will have serious economy-wide impacts,” the letter, which a total of 67 groups signed off on, reads in part. “The potential for disruptions in the flow of commerce at West Coast ports is creating uncertainty in a fragile economic climate and forcing many businesses to develop contingency plans that come at a significant cost to jobs and our economic competitiveness.”

The letter was spurred by a history of contentious talks between the PMA, which represents management, and ILWU, which represents about 13,600 port employees in California, Oregon and Washington. Both the 2008 and 2002 talks weren’t resolved until after the contracts’ expirations, and in 2002, the PMA launched an employer lockout that shut down the West Coast ports for 10 days and resulted in an estimated $1 billion-per-day loss to the industry.

“We urge you to stay at the negotiating table until a deal is reached even if negotiations extend beyond the current contract expiration,” the organizations’ letter states.