MEDIATION TALKS CONTINUE WITH ILWU, PMA
While lockouts continued at U.S. West Coast ports, Pacific Maritime Association and International Longshore and Warehouse Union representatives met for a second day — together and separately — with Peter J. Hurtgen, director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.
The lockouts, imposed by the PMA, which represents port employers, continued for an eight consecutive day Friday. The association imposed the lockouts to counter what it viewed as slowdown actions by the ILWU.
The union began the slowdown actions after it refused to sign a contract extension for the three-year contract that ended June 30. Both the PMA and ILWU had signed daily extensions in July and August while negotiations — and operations at the West Coast ports — continued.
The PMA reiterated Friday that it would end the lockouts if the ILWU agreed to resume 24-hour contract extensions, or to some other means of extension determined by Hurtgen, the mediator.
Spokesmen for the PMA and ILWU said Friday that a news blackout had been imposed on the discussions, which are expected to continue through the weekend.
'The National Industrial Transportation League reported Friday that a source close to the talks described them as “seemingly serious.”
The NIT League and 50 other industry organizations representing retailing, manufacturing, agriculture, transportation, technology, exporting and importing, wrote the White House calling for a meeting to brief the Bush administration on the economic impact of the lockouts, and to hear what the administration plans to do to reopen the ports.
'Literally hundreds of ships are sitting at anchor off our shores,' the organizations said in a letter Thursday to Lawrence Lindsey, assistant to the president for economic policy. 'It will not take many weeks to work through this backlog. It is now a foregone conclusion that manufacturing plants are shutting down, perishable agricultural products are spoiling, and that sales will be lost at retail this coming Christmas season.'
Organizations signing the letter included the Agriculture Ocean Transportation Coalition, American Association of Exporters and Importers, International Mass Retail Association, International Warehouse Logistics Association, National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America, Pacific Coast Council of Customs Brokers & Freight Forwarders Association, U.S. Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel, the NIT League and the West Coast Waterfront Coalition.
By one count Friday, 106 ships were anchored outside the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and 42 were idled in San Francisco and Oakland.
Other than comments through Department of Labor spokespersons, there has been no immediate indication that President Bush plans to invoke the Taft-Hartley Act to reopen the ports.
Nicholas DiMichael, the NIT League’s general counsel, said the Bush administration is likely to use the Taft-Hartley Act “as an absolute last resort.”
An injunction under Taft-Hartley can only be used once, cannot be extended beyond a prescribed 80-day period, and cannot be renewed. Courts have ruled that such an injunction should provide for continued operations under the terms of a prior prevailing contract, DiMichael explained.
For that reason, a “cooling off” period under Taft-Hartley could bring the ILWU and the PMA back to square one with none of their conflicting issues resolved.