Another Port Strike to Threaten U.S. Vendors?

Just days after an eight-day port strike on the West Coast ended, it seems problems brewing on the opposite side of the country are breeding concerns about the possibility of a new, late-year work stoppage...and one that would affect many more markets.

The contract between the International Longshoremen’s Association and the U.S. Maritime Alliance Ltd. is being negotiated to replace one that is expiring on Dec. 29. Getting something in place the last time a port-involved contract dispute came up – also involving the Longshoremen, in the Los Angeles/Long Beach area of California – resulted in some 75% of the largest U.S. port's capabilities being shut down for just over a week. Because of holiday retail-related shipping needs, some estimates noted that upwards of $1 billion in goods per day were blocked during the dispute.

A failure to forge a new deal or some type of extension would almost certainly lead to a lockout or strike in many, if not all of the following ports: Boston, New York/New Jersey, Delaware River, Baltimore, Hampton Roads, Wilmington, Charleston, Savannah, Jacksonville, Port Everglades, Miami, Tampa, Mobile, New Orleans, and Houston, National Retail Federation President/CEO Matthew Shay noted. Shay, who had blasted both sides in the West Coast stalemate, again publicly called on the Obama Administration to intervene because of the lost money potentially at stake.

“A strike of any kind at ports along the East and Gulf Coast could prove devastating for the U.S. economy,” Shay said. “Allowing a strike to occur for even one day could have a negative impact on all of those downstream businesses and employees who rely on the ports. The U.S. economy cannot afford to wait for a strike to occur before we see administration action.”

Granted, with the “fiscal cliff” issue yet unresolved on Capitol Hill and what sounds like a renewed call for new gun control measures in the wake of the mass school shooting tragedy in Connecticut, any intercession appears unlikely in the near-term. That's especially so since the Obama Administration elected not to get involved earlier this month in California.  

-Brian Shappell, CBA, NACM staff writer

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