WASHINGTON, Feb. 18, 2015 – Lawmakers are trying to keep pressure on West Coast port operators and the longshoreman’s union to settle the contract dispute that has snarled Asia-bound agricultural exports. As of Tuesday, more than 50 House members had signed onto a resolution that calls on President Barack Obama to end the dispute with binding arbitration if the two sides don’t reach agreement.
The dispute must be resolved “by the end of this month,” Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., told Agri-Pulse. “We can’t screw around any further.” Schrader introduced the resolution last week along with Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash.
The president on Saturday ordered Labor Secretary Thomas Perez to meet with the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and encourage them to reach a settlement.
Schrader says there are bigger stakes than just the current slowdown in shipments. He believes the West Coast risks losing traffic to southern ports that rely on the Panama Canal, which is being widened to accommodate larger vessels.
“We don’t want to have to get involved,” Schrader said of his House colleagues. “We’ve waited nine months patiently to not get involved. But there is a time at which your elected officials owe their constituents the right go get involved and encourage a market-based solution.”
Reichert praised the White House for sending Perez to intervene. “We cannot afford to let our farmers, workers, and manufacturers continue to lose business and market share,” Reichert said.
He and Schrader were still recruiting cosponsors this week in case Perez’ intervention isn’t successful.
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