Business Group Urges Biden to Intervene in West Coast Ports Labor Dispute
The largest U.S. business group on Friday urged President Joe Biden him to intervene immediately and appoint an independent mediator to address a West Coast ports labor dispute.
More than 22,000 dockworkers at ports from California to Washington state have been working without a contract since July. U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Suzanne Clark in a letter to Biden cited "continued and potentially expanded service disruptions at these ports heading into peak shipping season."
Tensions remain high as negotiators for the employers' Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and workers' International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) tussle over wages and retroactive pay in the last leg of talks that have stretched into their 13th month.
Unions are asking for a pay increase that reflects workers' contribution to the ocean shipping industry's record profits from the pandemic cargo boom. They also want added compensation for the hours worked since their contract expired.
Meanwhile, operations at major ports appear to have returned to normal after nearly a week of sporadic labor slowdowns and stoppages.
Workers reported for duty on Thursday and Friday at the Port of Los Angeles, the nation's busiest container terminal, officials said.
"Operations going into the weekend seem to be the most normal they've been" since labor disruptions started late last week, Los Angeles port spokesman Phillip Sanfield said, adding that the port has limited weekend hours.
Terminal operations at the Port of Oakland, near San Francisco, have also returned to normal, a spokesperson said.
Port executives are eager for a resolution since shipping customers have rerouted goods to facilities on the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico.
Retailers, manufacturers, farmers and other West Coast port customers are eager for a resolution as the peak shipping season approaches and routes between Asia and rival U.S. ports get more expensive due to a drought that is lowering water levels in the Panama Canal.
(Reuters - Reporting by David Shepardson Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Mark Potter)