Monday, December 22, 2014

AAPA Urges West Coast Labor Talks Mediation

By Mark Edward Nero

The American Association of Port Authorities is urging President Barack Obama to assign federal mediators to help resolve the ongoing contract negotiations between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and Pacific Maritime Association.

On Dec. 17, the AAPA, which represents 160 of the leading seaport authorities in North, South and Central America, sent a letter to President Obama, who previously said his administration would not step in to the middle of the negotiating process.

“At this tender stage of the economic recovery, our nation simply cannot afford disruptions, let alone a shutdown, of any part of the ports system,” AAPA president and CEO Kurt Nagle wrote. “After seven months of labor negotiations without an agreement being reached, we believe that federal mediation is now necessary to prevent the significant economic repercussions that can occur whenever there is uncertainty and unpredictability in the movement of international commerce through our ports.”

The PMA and ILWU have been in negotiations, off and on, since mid-May. The previous six-year labor pact between the two sides, which covered almost 20,000 longshore workers at 29 ports up and down the West Coast, expired at 5 pm on July 1.

The AAPA may be among the largest organizations so far to call for federal mediation, but it’s not the first. In November, the CEOs of the ports of Seattle and Tacoma sent a letter to President Obama urging that his administration become involved.

Coincidentally, on the same day the AAPA wrote the President, the PMA released a statement saying that it and the ILWU “remain far apart on several issues,” giving the impression that a deal is nowhere close to being completed.