Time is running out for the union representing workers at West Coast ports and their employers to negotiate new labor contracts by the time they expire on Friday, and lawmakers on Capitol Hill are urging against work stoppages if talks are unsuccessful.
“We understand that given the complexity of these negotiations, it may be difficult to reach a deal before the expiration of the current agreement,” 21 House members said in a letter sent Thursday to the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association, a non-profit organization that represents employers of shipping companies like Maersk and Hapag Lloyd. “We also recognize that this timing is typical and appreciate your shared assurances that cargo operations will continue beyond the expiration of the contract.”
The Pacific Maritime Association says in a statement that the talks are going well.
“PMA’s negotiations with the ILWU for a new labor contract at the 29 West Coast ports are critically important for the health of jobs, businesses, and communities nationwide,” the organization says. “We are proud of our collaboration with the ILWU during this extraordinary period, and hopeful that spirit of cooperation will continue as we pursue a new agreement.”
And the ILWU, in recent tweets, said that it and the PMA agree that cargo operations will continue even if the labor contracts expire and stressed that “neither party is preparing for a strike or a lockout, contrary to speculation in news reports. The parties remain focused on and committed to reaching an agreement.”
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The consequences of stopping work at the 30 ports that the U.S. ag sector counts on to ship fruits, vegetables, rice, hay, almonds, dairy, wine and other commodities to Asia and around the globe, would be severe.
“As you are already aware, the United States has experienced severe supply chain disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic and is seeing historic cargo volume at the same time, exacerbating our already fragile systems. Americans depend on the goods that come through our ports,” the lawmakers said in the letter.
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