Mediator is sought for West Coast port labor impasse

Port employers said slowdown at West Coast ports in the United States of America, including those in Long Beach and Los Angeles, has caused the port to lose market share to East Coast and Gulf Coast ports.

Steve Getzug, an employer spokesman, said employers told the union Monday they want a federal mediator to help the sides reach a contract, a stance business groups have repeatedly endorsed.

The union would have to consent to using a mediator, Getzug said.

A spokesman for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union said it would respond yesterday (Tuesday). The union has not acknowledged the use of slowdown tactics, but has said management has launched a smear campaign designed to deflect blame for long-running congestion problems of its own making.

Employers have accused the union of refusing to dispatch skilled workers at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports for nearly two months, exacerbating brutal congestion there. Similar slowdown tactics have been deployed at ports in Tacoma, Seattle and Oakland, according to employers.

Congestion at West Coast ports has disrupted supply chains this year, delaying the shipment of goods and causing some businesses to lose sales. Even before the slowdown accusations, the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports were experiencing the worst bottleneck since 2004.

A six-year contract for nearly 20,000 dockworkers at 29 West Coast ports expired in July.

The two sides reached a tentative agreement on healthcare in August, but other issues remain unresolved. 

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