WATERFRONT COALITION ASKS BUSH TO INTERVENE IN WEST COAST PORT IMPASSE
In a letter to President Bush today, the West Coast Waterfront Coalition urged the president to intervene to reopen the ports on the U.S. West Coast.
The coalition represents major shippers such as Nike, Gap Inc., Mattel, The Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Chiquita Brands International and Del Monte Foods, as well as port operators and intermodal transport providers.
“We implore you to take whatever steps are necessary to reopen the nation’s West Coast ports,” said Robin W. Lanier, executive director of the West Coast Waterfront Coalition, in a letter to the White House.
Discussions between the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents port employers, and the International Longshore & Warehouse Union to discuss possible mediation failed on Tuesday.
The coalition said the economic impact of the five-day shutdown of the ports, which started last Friday, is mounting.
“This impact includes the loss of perishable exports, the inability to secure transportation for manufactured and agricultural exports, the loss of drayage work at the ports, the depletion of just-in-time manufacturing inventories and the imminent prospect of idling assembly lines,” the coalition said in its letter.
The coalition warned that a continued port closure would have “a devastating effect” on the retail sector by threatening the availability of finished consumer products for the holiday sales period.
The coalition of shippers and terminal operators is also concerned that, for each day that the port is closed, it will take a week or more to unsnarl the backlog of work.
“Even if the situation were resolved today, it would take more than a month before the global supply chain would be back in order,” the coalition said.
The West Coast Waterfront Coalition said in its letter to President Bush that, while it favors mediation, it also believes that “some action must be taken before the economy suffers further damage.”
If President Bush decides to intervene in the dispute, he has the power to invoke the Taft-Hartley Act, which would force the two sides back to work for an 80-day cooling-off period.
The coalition said the current impact of the lockout includes the following disruptions:
* Short haul trucking companies at the harbors have effectively been shut down. Their employees and independent owner-operator truckers have no work to perform.
* U.S. rail operations supporting Asian trade are shutting down. No trains are being built at the harbor for inbound commerce and major railroads have announced that they will no longer accept containers with export cargo headed for West Coast ports.
* U.S. exporters are unable to send products to customers overseas and export product is backing up in grain elevators and in warehouses. Exporters of perishables, including produce and other agricultural products critical to the California economy, are being severely impacted “as their cargo rots at the ports.”
* U.S. manufacturers with just-in-time supply chains face “imminent suspension of manufacturing operations” as inventories of parts are exhausted. Air-freight alternatives are in limited supply and very expensive in the current climate. Even manufacturers who have implemented expensive contingency plans for critical parts will run those supplies down in two weeks time.
* U.S. retailers are entering the critical fourth quarter, during which they experience nearly 40 percent of all annual sales. The shutdown occurs at the height of peak holiday delivery season and may mean that important seasonal merchandise will not reach stores on time resulting in significant lost sales for retailers. In addition, the contingency plans that retailers have taken, including building their inventories and shipping products by air, add costs.