President Wants Dockworkers and Shippers to Work Things Out

Oct 03, 2002

Dock workers have agreed to let federal mediators help bring an end to the lock out of West Coast ports caused by a contract dispute between shippers and the dock workers union. The conflict between the two parties centers around the shippers plan to use labor-saving technology and the union’s pledge to protect jobs.

Earlier this week, President Bush urged the parties to sit down with federal mediators to try and solve the dispute.

The Pacific Maritime Association said it was not ready to lift the lockout unless the International Longshore and Warehouse Union agreed to extend its expired contract and not engage in work slowdowns. Longshoremen have been locked out since September 28.

The National Retail Federation has written to the President asking that Mr. Bush intervene in the dispute. “We cannot overstate the gravity of the current situation,” said Tracy Mullin, president and CEO for the NRF. “The West Coast ports handle a substantial portion of the nation’s trade, which accounts for one quarter of U.S. gross domestic product. Their closure will deliver a serious blow to the U.S. economy.”

The West Coast Waterfront Coalition, representing Wal-Mart, Target, Home Depot and others, has also called for federal intervention to bring an end to the lockout.

Moderator’s Comment: Should the federal government
intervene in the West Coast port lockout?

Neither the Pacific Maritime Association or the International
Longshore and Warehouse Union can afford to let this lockout go on for much
longer without the potential of inflecting irreparable harm to themselves and
their portion of the shipping industry.

The potential harm of this lockout is immense as the NRF
and others have accurately portrayed. This dispute, however, needs to be resolved
between the shippers and union. Imposing a settlement can only lead to more
problems. We firmly believe that while cooler heads may not prevail here, empty
wallets will. [George
Anderson – Moderator

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