AAPA urges Obama to help resolve West Coast dockworker talks

The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) urged the US President Barack Obama to assign federal mediators to help resolve the ongoing contract talks between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), representing West Coast dockworkers, and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA).

AAPA said in a letter on Wednesday, that America cannot afford disruptions nor a shutdown of any portion of its port system. The two negotiating sides launched the talks in May covering 29 ports on US West Coast under a ‘gentleman’s agreement’.

However, shifting of blame and accusations of orchestrating slowdowns at the said ports have just further widened the gap between ILWU and PMA resulting in a failure to reach a concrete result on the matter.

“America’s seaports are absolutely vital to our economy, jobs and international competitiveness.  At this tender stage of the economic recovery, our nation simply cannot afford disruptions, let alone a shutdown, of any part of the ports system,” said Kurt Nagle, AAPA president and CEO. “After seven months of labor negotiations without an agreement being reached, we believe that federal mediation is now necessary to prevent the significant economic repercussions that can occur whenever there is uncertainty and unpredictability in the movement of international commerce through our ports.”

International trade accounts for nearly one-third of the U.S. economy. America’s seaports handle more than 99 percent of the nation’s overseas imports and exports, amounting to more than 2 billion tons of goods annually.

According to AAPA, this mammoth flow of trade supports more than 13 million American jobs and generates over USD 200 billion a year in tax revenues.

“Disruptions to this trade flow hurt American businesses and farmers, cost American consumers and impede America’s ability to compete in international markets,” AAPA added.

The failure to reach the deal on the new contract has, in addition to other factors such as a surge in cargo volume, shortage of chassis and insufficient number of truck drivers, had a ripple affect across US West Coast ports, the worst being acute terminal congestion. 

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