Obama Urged To Intervene In Port Dispute

Asked To Invoke Taft-Hartley Act

President ObamaFlorida Governor Rick Scott is the latest official to ask President Barack Obama to take action to prevent a potentially crippling port strike that's scheduled to begin on December 30. Scott wrote Obama late last Friday, appealing to him to invoke the Taft-Hartley Act and keep dockworkers at their posts.

"Consistent and effective operation of our East Coast and Gulf Coast ports is vital to the flow of international trade and commerce, both into and out of the United States, and has never been more important," wrote Scott. "The threat to national health and safety that would result from mass closure of the ports cannot be overstated."

The potential strike, which would involve nearly 15,000 dockworkers and affect more than a dozen major ports along the East and Gulf Coasts, would cost the U.S. economy an estimated $1 billion each day, according to some projections. The threat comes on the heels of an eight-day West Coast strike that effectively shut down the major ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, diverting inbound traffic and slowing numerous cargo shipments from Asia.

Earlier this month, officials from a coalition of wholesalers, retailers and importers asked Obama to compel negotiations between the International Longshoremen's Association, which represents dockworkers, and the U.S. Maritime Alliance, which represents port management. Talks between the parties recently broke off with negotiators unable to resolve the issue of container royalties. Port managers would like to cap or roll back the royalties – which are payments to unionized dockworkers based on the weight of cargo – while the union wants to keep the current system in place.

To date, Obama has not publicly responded to any requests for intervention. If it takes place, the strike would be the first East and Gulf Coast port walkout since 1977.