Pressure is mounting on the White House to arbitrate the labor dispute at the West Coast port Ship’s crew

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By David Shepardson and Lisa Baertlein

WASHINGTON/LOS ANGELES, June 5 (Reuters) – Groups representing major retailers and manufacturers on Monday called on the White House to intervene in contentious labor negotiations at West Coast ports, citing concerns about supply disruptions during the critical Christmas business season.

The call came after the largest terminal in the Southern California port of Long Beach closed Monday due to a dockworker rally better pay. Monday’s closure was followed by similar disruptions on Friday in Oakland, California.

More than 22,000 longshoremen in ports from California to Washington state have been working without a contract since July.

Contract negotiations between the employers’ Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and workers’ International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) are in the final stages, but after more than a year at the negotiating table, frustration is running high.

“We are asking the government to mediate to ensure the parties reach a new contract quickly and without further disruption,” said David French, senior vice president of government relations at the National Retail Federation. The industry it represents accounts for about half of the volume in the country’s container ports as it gears up for back to school, Christmas and other key sales events.

Retailers are calling on the Biden administration to intervene in tense labor negotiations in the West Coast port

“As the peak shipping season begins over the holiday period, these additional disruptions will force retailers and other key shipping partners to continue shifting their cargo from West Coast ports pending a new labor contract,” French said.

Port of Long Beach’s Total Terminals International LLC (TTI) canceled appointments Monday. This facility is majority owned by container shipping giant Mediterranean Shipping Company SA (MSC).

TTI and port union officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

All terminals in the Port of Los Angeles, the nation’s busiest, and in Oakland, California, are open, officials said.

Meanwhile, Jay Timmons, CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, also took to Twitter to urge the White House to act.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the administration continues to monitor the situation closely and encourages all sides to work towards a fair agreement.

“They have already overcome some important sticking points and they continue to deal with the most difficult problems at the moment,” Jean-Pierre said of employers and the union.

Willie Adams, President of ILWU International, said Friday that dockers had played a crucial role in keeping goods moving in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic and would like to share in the record profits generated by the surge in cargo .

“We will not settle for an ILWU economic package that fails to recognize the heroic efforts and personal sacrifices of the ILWU workforce that have brought record profits to the shipping industry,” Adams said.

Many West Coast terminals are wholly or partly owned by shipping companies, whose profits skyrocketed during this period.

(Reporting by David Shepardson and Lisa Baertlein; Editing by Will Dunham, Chizu Nomiyama and Marguerita Choy)

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2023.

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