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  • DATVF.CHIATL
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  • DATVF.DALLAX
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  • DATVF.LAXDAL
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  • DATVF.VSU
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  • DATVF.VWU
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  • ITVI.USA
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  • OTRI.USA
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  • OTVI.USA
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  • TLT.USA
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  • WAIT.USA
    156.000
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  • DATVF.ATLPHL
    1.751
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  • DATVF.CHIATL
    2.041
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  • DATVF.DALLAX
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  • DATVF.LAXDAL
    1.459
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  • DATVF.SEALAX
    0.984
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  • DATVF.PHLCHI
    1.110
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  • DATVF.LAXSEA
    2.155
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  • DATVF.VEU
    1.634
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  • DATVF.VNU
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  • DATVF.VSU
    1.194
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  • DATVF.VWU
    1.569
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  • ITVI.USA
    9,394.010
    -295.340
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  • OTRI.USA
    7.540
    -0.110
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  • OTVI.USA
    9,375.560
    -302.450
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  • TLT.USA
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  • WAIT.USA
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American ShipperShippingTrade and ComplianceWarehouse

Economist says longshore negotiations should be brought under Railway Labor Act

Since they are so critical to trade, negotiations between dockworkers and employers should be governed in same way as railroads and airlines, argues Diana Furchtgott-Roth.

   With the results of a vote by members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union on whether to accept the tentative contract reached with the Pacific Maritime Association due to be tallied on Friday, Diana Furchtgott-Roth, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, is renewing her call for longshoremen and their employers to be brought under the Railway Labor Act (RLA).
   (While the ILWU and PMA bargain for most West Coast dockworkers, the International Longshoremen’s Association and USMX negotiate a master contract for longshoremen on the East and Gulf coasts.)
   Furchtgott-Roth, who made a similar suggestion last fall in an article for the Wall Street Journal Market Watch, has now laid out her arguments in a 20 page paper published on the website of the conservative think tank.
   “Ports are no less critical to U.S. infrastructure and trade — and should be governed in the same manner as America’s railroad and airline industries,” argues Furchtgott-Roth. “Congress and the president should not allow millions of jobs and hundreds of billions of dollars in income to be held hostage when labor contracts expire. It is time to update U.S. labor law by putting the country’s ports under the RLA’s jurisdiction.”
   She notes that Congress passed the RLA in 1926 to “ensure that commerce was not disrupted by labor disputes between railroad employee unions and management.” In 1936, the government expanded the law to cover unionized airline employees.
   “Today, when disputes in the U.S. railroad and airline industries arise, they can be resolved rapidly without loss to commerce,” she said, pointing to a 2011 railway dispute during which President Obama set up a Presidential Emergency Board that successfully negotiated an agreement.
   Furchtgott-Roth explained that the RLA provides a framework for federal mediation of labor disputes between railroad companies and their unionized employees, which are overseen by an independent agency, the National Mediation Board (NMB), under its jurisdiction and minimizes disruption of transit points.
   It is, she said, “a model that works well for American airlines and railroads — and likely would work equally well for American ports.”
   “The success rate of the NMB process is astounding: since the NMB’s founding in 1925, 97 percent of all cases have been resolved without interruption; since 1980, this rate has risen to 99 percent,” she added.
   Furchtgott-Roth further explained, “Under the RLA, labor contracts do not expire (unlike current contracts signed by longshoremen at ports). Instead, they become ‘amendable’ and remain in force until a new agreement is reached. The RLA stipulates that management and labor can, at first, begin negotiating contracts without outside help (though the NMB acknowledges that the majority of cases require mediation).”
   “If negotiations are unsuccessful, federal mediation is required — though the NMB’s arbitration is not binding — before unions and employers can engage in ‘self-help” actions, such as slowdowns, strikes, and lockouts,” she added.
   “If the parties cannot reach a settlement after initial mediation, they must commit to a month long cooling-off period. If the dispute is a substantial threat to transportation, a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) may be created, with the board responsible for making recommendations on an agreement. If the parties reject the PEB’s recommendations, Congress has the option to take action and impose a settlement,” said Furchtgott-Roth.

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Chris Dupin

Chris Dupin has written about trade and transportation and other business subjects for a variety of publications before joining American Shipper and Freightwaves.
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