• ITVI.USA
    15,411.130
    -4.180
    0%
  • OTLT.USA
    2.740
    -0.021
    -0.8%
  • OTRI.USA
    21.110
    0.000
    0%
  • OTVI.USA
    15,375.870
    -11.650
    -0.1%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    3.300
    0.000
    0%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    3.140
    0.190
    6.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.590
    0.150
    10.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    3.330
    0.020
    0.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    2.170
    0.020
    0.9%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    4.080
    0.130
    3.3%
  • WAIT.USA
    125.000
    -1.000
    -0.8%
  • ITVI.USA
    15,411.130
    -4.180
    0%
  • OTLT.USA
    2.740
    -0.021
    -0.8%
  • OTRI.USA
    21.110
    0.000
    0%
  • OTVI.USA
    15,375.870
    -11.650
    -0.1%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    3.300
    0.000
    0%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    3.140
    0.190
    6.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.590
    0.150
    10.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    3.330
    0.020
    0.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    2.170
    0.020
    0.9%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    4.080
    0.130
    3.3%
  • WAIT.USA
    125.000
    -1.000
    -0.8%
American ShipperShippingTrade and ComplianceWarehouse

PORTS legislation introduced to discourage port labor disruptions

The new Senate bill would allow state governors to invoke Taft-Hartley in an attempt to mitigate port congestion stemming from labor disputes.

   Senator Cory Gardner, R-Colo., introduced Thursday night a bill aimed at strengthening the Taft-Hartley Act in the wake of the protracted labor negotiations and slowdowns that snarled West Coast ports last in late 2014 and early 2015.
   Gardner said in a press release that the purpose of his Protecting Orderly and Responsible Transit of Shipments (PORTS) Act is to “safeguard the American economy from the threat of labor shutdowns and slowdowns at seaports.”
   The act, which is cosponsored by Senator Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., would “discourage disruptions at U.S. seaports and incentivize speedy resolution of disputes by strengthening and expanding” Taft-Hartley.
   Gardner said, “It would do this by granting state governors Taft Hartley powers currently reserved for the president, including the ability to convene a board of inquiry and start the Taft Hartley process whenever a port labor dispute is causing economic harm. Once that board reports, governors could petition federal courts to enjoin slowdowns, strikes, or lockouts at ports in their states. The PORTS Act would explicitly include slowdowns as a trigger for Taft Hartley powers.”
   “This year’s slowdown at West Coast ports demonstrated the disastrous consequences that labor disputes at our ports can have on businesses, consumers, and the entire economy,” Gardner added. “Labor union bosses should not be allowed to hold the economy hostage, nor should they be allowed to use the livelihoods and jobs of millions of Americans as bargaining chips. This Act would empower local leaders, who are most affected by these port disruptions, to apply pressure to their state governments to bring these damaging disputes to an end.”
   “The proposed bill is outrageous, extremist, anti-worker legislation,” said Craig Merrilees, communications director of the International Longshore & Warehouse Union on Friday. Worker slowdowns during the lengthy and contentious negotiations between the ILWU and Pacific Maritime Association are have been viewed by many businesses as one of the leading causes for congestion that crippled West Coast ports an caused dozens of ships to anchor at while waiting for berths.
   Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), called the bill “a horrific overreach by the business community” and said “it is essentially designed to give a sitting governor the power to beat down workers and their bargaining rights and we think this bill should be rejected.”
   Wytkind believes that the negotiations between the ILWU and employers “worked well if you look at it through the lens of how labor law is supposed to work.” And he noted the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service was involved in trying to bring the parties together, and that the president eventually dispatched Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez to help resolve the dispute.
   He said the business community “does not want an even handed process, they want a system that dramatically advantages them.”
   Alexander said problems at West Coast ports “made it difficult for auto manufacturers and suppliers in Tennessee to keep production lines running. This legislation will empower state governors to take steps to resolve port labor disputes and avoid economic disaster if the president is unwilling to act.”
   A group of 118 organizations including the National Retail Federation, the United States Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Agriculture Transportation Coalition sent a letter to Gardner supporting his bill.
   “We believe this approach correctly reforms the Taft-Hartley process to promote government action in response to the great harm these disputes cause our national economy. Most importantly, the bill clearly defines and expands situations in which Taft-Hartley can be invoked, preventing legal ambiguity from causing inaction,” they wrote, adding “U.S. ports are essential to the economy and provide the gateway for imports and exports. Our ports should not serve as a barrier to trade, preventing companies from reaching foreign consumers.”
   David French, a senior vice president for government relations at the National Retail Federation the bill was “a welcomed sign that Congress is serious about ensuring that additional tools are available to local leaders to prevent another coast-wide port disruption due to an ongoing contract negotiation dispute, while still respecting the collective bargaining process.”
   Randy Johnson, senior vice president of Labor, Immigration, and Employee Benefits for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said the legislation “will not interfere with the labor management negotiations necessary, and appropriate, to resolve disputes between the parties, but will provide a type of failsafe mechanism to limit damages to outside parties.”
   “The U.S. cannot afford another collapse of our gateway container ports,” said Peter Friedmann, executive director of the Agriculture Transportation Coalition. “We cannot standby and wait for U.S. West Coast ports, which have now shut down twice over the past 13 years, to do it again when the recently approved ILWU- PMA contract expires in just four years, in 2019.”

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.

We are glad you’re enjoying the content

Sign up for a free FreightWaves account today for unlimited access to all of our latest content

By signing in for the first time, I give consent for FreightWaves to send me event updates and news. I can unsubscribe from these emails at any time. For more information please see our Privacy Policy.