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Retailers, manufacturers urge White House to mediate in West Coast ports labor dispute

Aug 13, 2023Aug 13, 2023

WASHINGTON/LOS ANGELES, June 5 (Reuters) - Groups representing major retailers and manufacturers urged the White House on Monday to intervene in contentious West Coast port labor negotiations, citing worries about shipping disruptions during critical holiday shopping seasons.

The call came after the largest terminal at Southern California's Port of Long Beach closed for the day shift Monday as dock workers rally for better pay. Monday's temporary closure followed similar disruptions on Friday in Oakland, California.

More than 22,000 dockworkers at ports stretching from California to Washington state have been working without a contract since July.

Contract talks between the employers' Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and workers' International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) are in the final stretch, but frustrations are running high after more than a year at the negotiating table.

"We urge the administration to mediate to ensure the parties quickly finalize a new contract without additional disruptions," said David French, senior vice president of government relations at the National Retail Federation. The industry it represents accounts for about half of the volume at the nation's container ports and is gearing up for back-to-school, Christmas and other key sales events.

Elsewhere, National Association of Manufacturers CEO Jay Timmons on Twitter also implored the White House to act.

The Port of Long Beach's Total Terminals International LLC (TTI) canceled daytime appointments on Monday, but planned to reopen for the evening shift starting at 6 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time, port spokesman Lee Peterson said. That facility is majority owned by container shipping giant Mediterranean Shipping Company SA (MSC).

Representatives from TTI and the longshore union, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

All terminals were open at the Port of Los Angeles, the nation's busiest, and at Oakland, California.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the administration continues to closely monitor the situation and encourages all sides to work to reach a fair contract.

"They have overcome some major sticking points already and are continuing to address (the) most difficult issues right now," Jean-Pierre said of employers and the union.

A source familiar with the talks said acting Labor Secretary Julie Su is actively engaging with the parties.

ILWU International President Willie Adams on Friday said dockworkers played a vital role in keeping goods moving in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, and would like to share in the record profits reaped when cargo surged.

"We aren't going to settle for an economic ILWU package that doesn't recognize the heroic efforts and personal sacrifices of the ILWU workforce that lifted the shipping industry to record profits," Adams said.

Many West Coast terminals are fully or partly owned by shipping companies whose profits spiked during that time.

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Lisa Baertlein covers the movement of goods around the world, with emphasis on ocean transport and last-mile delivery. In her free time, you'll find her sailing, painting or exploring state and national parks.