By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON, June 13 (Reuters) – Acting US Secretary of Labor Julie Su is in California to meet with West Coast port unions and the Pacific Maritime Employers’ Association and encourage them to stay at the negotiating table and reach an agreement , the ministry announced on Tuesday.
Last week, the US Chamber of Commerce urged President Joe Biden to step in immediately and appoint an independent mediator to resolve a labor dispute at West Coast ports. More than 22,000 longshoremen in ports from California to Washington state have been working without a contract since July 2022.
On Monday, West Coast seaport employers criticized absenteeism by workers they say are slowing work in some of the country’s busiest ports as unions push for a bigger share of record profits being made by surges in cargo shipments during the pandemic became.
Stretching from California to Washington state, West Coast ports are critical to U.S. supply chains and the nation’s economy. Contract negotiations are already in their 13th month.
The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), which represents terminal operators with ties to shipping lines that have suffered significant financial gain from COVID-19, said port operations in Los Angeles, Long Beach and Seattle suffered disruptions Sunday due to labor shortages have.
Weekend operations at many U.S. seaports are restricted, seaport operators said. Still, several have confirmed that the absence of workers has slowed or halted work during the talks. For example, ships are experiencing berth delays at US Container Gateway #1 in Los Angeles/Long Beach due to a lack of “lashers” that secure and unlock containers aboard ships.
Willie Adams, president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), said Saturday, “West Coast ports are open as we continue to work under our expired collective agreement.” He reiterated the union’s intention to reach an agreement. Su is meeting with both the ILU and the PMA, the department said.
If talks fail, mediation fails, and port operations halt, Biden can invoke federal labor law to force the port to resume normal operations. The last President to do so was George W. Bush, who invoked this federal law in 2002 after dock employers locked out union dockers.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)
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