With potential economic blows coming to ports in Jacksonville, Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Tampa, Gov. Rick Scott is urging President Obama to broker negotiations between the International Longshoremen's Association and the United States Maritime Alliance, which is comprised of container companies and port associations.
Without any settlement or outside intervention, the union is set to strike Dec. 29.
Noting that a 10-day lockout in 2001 resulted in an estimated $10 billion in impact, Scott implored the president to consider using the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act which gives the nation’s top executive the power to directly address the dispute and order striking workers back to work for 80 days.
“If a strike occurs, it is not only the state of Florida that will be affected, but the entire country,” Scott wrote.
“The international liner Shipping industry, as well as retailers and distributors, are already preparing for inevitable shortages and supply chain backlash issues at ports outside the region that would remain operative in the event of a strike or lockout. A strike will affect everyone -- including ports on the West Coast -- as well as our intermodal capabilities. This issue must be addressed and resolved immediately.”
President George W. Bush invoked the law in 2001 to push negotiations between West Coast shipping companies and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.
The International Longshoremen's Association, which hasn’t gone on strike since 1977, and the U.S. Maritime Alliance Ltd., have been bickering since March over a six-year contract covering container work at the ports.
The two sides, according to the Wall Street Journal, are stuck over the management proposal to cap “container royalty” payments, which are used for worker salaries and health care.
The current payment rates were set in the 1960s, when the docks had more workers as automation and container cargo were introduced.
The union, part of the AFL-CIO, opposes the president using Taft-Hartley.
The National Retail Federation made a similar plea on Monday without getting any public response from the White House.
“A strike of any kind at ports along the East and Gulf Coast could prove devastating for the U.S. economy,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay wrote to the president.
“We call upon you to use all means necessary, including Taft-Hartley, to keep the two sides at the negotiating table and head off a coastwide strike.”
The NRF claims that a strike or lockout would immediately halt operations at ports located in: Boston, New York/New Jersey, Delaware River, Baltimore, Hampton Roads, Wilmington, Charleston, Savannah, Jacksonville, Port Everglades, Miami, Tampa, Mobile, New Orleans, and Houston.
Reach Jim Turner at email@example.com or at (772) 215-9889.