President Obama recently received a letter from the NRF (National Retail Federation) detailing the growing concern of the retail industry concerning the contract controversy involving the United States Maritime Alliance, Ltd. and the International Longshoremen’s Association. The two parties have been negotiating, with federal mediators assisting, with little progress seen for some months now.
National Retail Federation President and CEO Matthew Shay, in his correspondence to the president, said that any form of a strike at the Gulf and East coast harbors would have devastating effects on the United States economy. He further called upon the president to apply all the means necessary so that the sides involved can keep negotiating so that a strike is averted.
If there were a strike or a lockout at the ports then this would affect exporters and importers and could disrupt or delay the spring or summer merchandise that use facilities at the ports from Houston to Boston.
The president has the Taft-Hartley Act that he could use to put a stop of any job action and force the parties to return to the negotiations table. The Act seeks to promote free flowing trade and it was President Bush in 2002, that was last to invoke it during lockouts at ports at the West Coast. Economists estimated that the West Coast lockout, that lasted 10 days, cost the economy at least$ 1 billion each day.
Other talks are scheduled for the week, but if no agreement is reached or negotiations are extended beyond the contract deadline expiring on Dec 29, then a strike is highly likely. This would affect 15 container ports; Houston, New Orleans, Mobile, Tampa, Miami, Port Everglades, Jacksonville, Savannah, Charleston, Wilmington, Hampton Roads, Baltimore, Delaware River, New Jersey/New York and Boston. The last strike occurred in 1977.