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    74.080
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  • OTLT.USA
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    0.002
    0.1%
  • OTRI.USA
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    -0.180
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  • OTVI.USA
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    69.970
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  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
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    0.000
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  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
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  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
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  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
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  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
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  • WAIT.USA
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  • ITVI.USA
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    74.080
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  • OTLT.USA
    2.754
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  • OTRI.USA
    20.490
    -0.180
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  • OTVI.USA
    15,507.170
    69.970
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  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
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    0.000
    0%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    3.140
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  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
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  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    3.330
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American ShipperShippingTrade and ComplianceWarehouse

Senators introduce legislation to prevent port slowdowns

The Prevent Labor Union Slowdowns (PLUS Act), S.702, is sponsored by Senators Jim Risch, R-Idaho; Mike Crapo, R-Idaho; and David Perdue, R-Ga.

   Legislation was introduced last week in the U.S. Senate aimed at preventing labor union slowdowns at ports.
   The bill, known as the Prevent Labor Union Slowdowns (PLUS Act), S.702, is sponsored by Senators Jim Risch, R-Idaho; Mike Crapo, R-Idaho; and David Perdue, R-Ga.
   “Experience has demonstrated that frequent and periodic disruptions to commerce in the maritime industry in the form of deliberate and unprotected labor slowdowns at the ports of the United States have led to substantial and frequent economic disruption and loss, interfering with the free flow of domestic and international commerce and threatening the economic health of the United States, as well as its citizens and businesses,” S.702 says. “Such frequent and periodic disruptions to commerce in the maritime industry hurt the reputation of the United States in the global economy.”
   Sen. Crapo said, “Idaho farmers, ranchers, producers and manufacturers suffered significant losses due to the West Coast port slowdown in late 2014.”
   Work slowed at U.S. West Coast ports in 2014 and 2015 when the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and employers were negotiating a new labor contract for West Coast dockworkers.
   The Pacific Maritime Association, which negotiated the contract with the ILWU, said the ILWU’s actions “needlessly brought West Coast ports to the brink of gridlock,” and temporarily suspended weekend vessel operations in February 2015. A contract agreement was finally reached later that month and ratified in May 2015, more than a year after the contract talks began.
   The three Senators said S.702 would change the National Labor Relations Act, defining a labor slowdown by maritime workers as an unfair labor practice, and would prevent massive financial damage to the food and other industries. A similar bill, S.1630, was introduced in June 2015.
   “Local businesses in Idaho have experienced significant financial loss due to labor union disputes beyond their control,” Sen. Risch said. “By qualifying the ‘slowdown’ tactic as an unfair labor practice, this bill will ensure businesses can continue to import and export their goods regardless of these disputes.” Sen. Crapo said the legislation “will enable Idaho’s business community to remain competitive when faced with labor disputes outside the state and out of our control.”   
   “The slowdown method is detrimental to port managers because remuneration for full benefits and salaries is required, and replacing or firing employees cannot occur,” a press release issued by Sen. Rich’s office said. “In addition, since a slowdown is currently restricted from classification as an unfair labor practice under federal labor law, port managers lack the power to call in an order from an arbiter during contract negotiations directing workers to work at a normal pace. These disputes have resulted in both shipping companies and port managers terminating their contracts to service individual ports.
   “The U.S. Potato Board estimates that in 2015, west coast slowdowns caused massive financial damage to the food industry, including a $50 million loss to the Idaho potato industry,” the release said. “Other estimates include $70 million in wasted fruit in Washington, and $40 million per week loss in meat sales.”
   The release added the PLUS Act would allow “injured parties to file civil actions in federal court to seek double augmented damages resulting from slowdowns, as well as recover their attorney and expert witness fees and costs.”
   Neither the ILWU nor the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA), the union which represents dockworkers on the East and Gulf Coast, had an immediate comment on the legislation.

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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