Port Strike Temporarily Averted
Nearly 15,000 Dockworkers Were Set To Go On Strike
Federal mediators have helped to temporarily avert a potentially crippling strike at more than a dozen major ports along the East and Gulf Coasts. Nearly 15,000 dockworkers were set to go on strike on December 30, but a new agreement has extended the current deal until February 6. Just before Christmas, a strike appeared imminent after talks between the International Longshoremen's Association – which represents dockworkers – and the U.S. Maritime Alliance – which represents port management – broke off.
Fearing the consequences of a prolonged strike, the National Retail Federation has appealed to President Obama, asking him to invoke the Taft-Hartley Act and keep the dockworkers at their posts. Yet, Obama recently passed on such a move during a West Coast port strike that lasted eight days in Long Beach and Los Angeles.
At issue in the East and Gulf Coasts' dispute is the future of container royalties, which are essentially payments to unionized dockworkers based on the weight of cargo received at a port site. Port managers would like to cap or roll back the royalties, while dockworkers want to keep the current system in place. Port officials say the royalties are a competitive albatross, while union officials contend the royalties are a critical supplemental wage that managers agreed not to cap in a previous deal.
The looming strike – which would be the first East and Gulf Coast walkout since 1977 – would not affect non-container goods, but would impact items ranging from apparel to furniture to toys, as well as heavy machinery and auto parts.