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Politics

Florida Ports Want White House Blockade of Pending Longshoremen’s Strike

December 26, 2012 - 6:00pm

Port directors in Florida on Thursday backed the governor as the state awaits a response to his call for the White House to intervene in a pending longshoremen's strike that could become a crippling, multibillion-dollar hit on the Florida economy.

PortMiami Director Bill Johnson, who chairs the Florida Ports Council, said the impact would be seen immediately in Florida, reaching beyond the port front to truck drivers, manufacturers, retailers and even the tourist industry.

You will start to see within a matter of days, if there is a strike, product disappearing from store shelves, Johnson said during a media conference call.

Noting that Florida has spent $421 million in the last three years bulking up its ports in anticipation of growing global trade with the expansion of the Panama Canal, Scott reiterated his appeal for 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, to avoid a strike taking place Saturday night.

We need the federal government, President Obama, to support Florida ports, as we have done at the state level, Scott said.

JaxPort, Port Everglades, PortMiami and the Port of Tampa, the states largest container ports, would be the most directly impacted of Floridas 15 ports.

But Johnson said the effects would go beyond the waterfront.

It isnt just 6,000 people working on my port today, Johnson said. This is tens of thousands of people working here in South Florida and throughout the state.And it isnt just Miami that is impacted, its Orlando, its Cleveland, Ohio--this is going to impact nationwide.

The strike wouldnt close every aspect of port operations. Petroleum, military cargo and most foods wouldnt be disrupted.

Cruise ships wouldnt be able to avoid any impact, Johnson said. With an estimated 30 truckloads of product needed for any multiday venture, each liner would feel the sting as standard amenties such as flowers and champagne are unavailable, he said.

Scott, on Dec. 21, urged Obama to consider using the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act which gives the nations top executive the power to directly address the dispute and order striking workers back to work for 80 days.

Scott said Thursday he had yet to hear from the White House.

A 10-day lockout to West Coast ports in 2002 resulted in an estimated $10 billion fiscal impact before President George W. Bush used the Taft-Hartley Act to get the ports working again.

The International Longshoremen's Association, which hasnt 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 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.

"ILA work isn't like other professions," the unions Web site declares. "No ships mean no work, but employers depend on a strong and skilled work force when ships need to be worked. Container Royalty helps keep an ILA work force available."

What Florida port leaders are saying:

PortMiami Director Bill Johnson

PortMiami contributes more than $18 billion annually to the South Florida economy. We remain hopeful that an agreement will be reached and a strike avoided. There are no "winners" in a strike. A disruption of cargo flow in and out of our ports would have a negative effect on the national economy and reverse any gains we have made in job growth this year. PortMiami, along with all Florida ports, is working with Governor Scotts office in asking that labor talks continue.

Florida Ports Council President Doug Wheeler

With more than 550,000 direct and indirect jobs and $66 billion in annual economic value tied to port activity into the state, we are hopeful that negotiations between the ILA and USMX will be productive and avert a possible strike. Halting even a fraction would not only negatively impact ports, but all Floridians, from truck driver to consumer, as well as jobs and goods along the entire supply chain.

Chris Kauffmann, chief operating officer of JAXPORT

"JAXPORT supports more than 65,000 jobs and generates $19 billion in annual economic impact for the North Florida region. While this potential action would impact a portion of the cargo handled at Jacksonville's public seaport terminals, we are monitoring the situation closely as our main mission as a landlord port is to facilitate the safe and efficient movement of goods for all of our tenants. We are grateful for Governor Scott's leadership on this issue and join our fellow Florida seaports in hoping for a swift resolution to this situation."

Steve Cernak, port director for Port Everglades

Cargo business at Port Everglades contributes approximately $13.5 billion worth of business activity to Floridas economy annually and supports nearly 150,000 jobs statewide. While only a portion of our cargo business will be affected by an ILA strike, we applaud Governor Scott for actively seeking federal intervention to prevent a strike and keep workers on the job.

Paul Anderson, port director for Port of Tampa

The Port of Tampa handled about 35 million tons of cargo in fiscal year 2012, contributes an annual economic impact of almost $8 billion and supports almost 100,000 direct, indirect, induced or other related jobs in west Central Florida. Governor Scott has been a tireless advocate on behalf of the Florida port system, and the Tampa Port Authority supports the Governors efforts urging prompt resolution of the new master agreement between the International Longshoremens Association and the U.S. Maritime Alliance, prior to the pending strike deadline.

Stan Payne, port director for Port Canaveral

With Port Canaveral significantly growing its cargo business and the possibility of cruise business being affected by the ILA contract issues, we are hopeful that the negotiations will result in a quick resolution. We are thankful for Governor Scotts actions in championing a resolution in order to prevent any disruption to Floridas economy.


Reach Jim Turner at jturner@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 215-9889.

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