Strike To Close Down Eastern & Southern Ports
A strike is set to close down eastern and southern ports come Sunday should no agreement be reached by 12:01 a.m. that morning. With all major US ports along the East Coast and Texas likely to shut down Sunday if a dock worker’s union fails to agree to a contract, President Obama could invoke the Taft-Hartley act so as to ensure mediation via the federal government. Already on Wednesday, traffic backed up at Port Newark as shipping companies anticipated a strike by East Coast longshoremen. From Massachusetts to Texas, the strike could cripple the coast for the first time since a two month walkout in 1977, halting the flow of tens of billions of dollars of imports. The last time the ports shut down was in 2002, the economy lost $1 billion a day and it took six months for the supply chain to catch up, according to the National Retail Federation.
This on the heels a west coast strike that shutdown ports in LA. After an emergency Christmas meeting, Port managers told the Post they believe there will be no last minute agreement to stave off a major strike of dock-workers.
Fear is mounting among the nation’s retailers and other businesses that this could mean a repeat of the 1977 strike should the 14,500 dockworkers embark upon the strike. Traffic backed up on Wednesday at Port Newark as shipping companies anticipated a strike by East Coast longshoremen.
“Unless something miraculous happens, I think we’re looking at a strike,” said Kevin M. Burke, president of the American Apparel and Footwear Association. “Our companies are preparing for the worst,” Mr. Burke said, “but hoping for the best.”
Over 100 business groups wrote into President Obama last week urging him to intervene on behalf of settlement. They urged him to breakup the strike via the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act. President George W. Bush invoked the act in 2002 so as to end a lockout at West Coast.
The dockworkers are highly skilled and not easily replaced. They control the loading and unloading of goods in most of the nation’s ports, and a strike could be extremely damaging at a time when the economy is already cut off at the knees.
“They’re in a crucial place in the flow of goods,” said Richard W. Hurd, an industrial relations professor at Cornell University.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey conjecture that the strike could cost the region $136 million per week in personal income and $110 million in economic output.
The dockworkers union is opposed to federal government intervention. Labor specialists imply that Obama’s Adminstration would not enjoin a strike, especially considering the economy already sits on the edge of tax increases and federal budget cuts scheduled to begin in January.
“The last thing the nation needs right now is a strike that would shut down the East Coast and Gulf Coast ports,” said Jonathan Gold, the National Retail Federation’s vice president for supply chain policy. “This will have a huge ripple effect throughout the economy.”
14 ports are threatened with a strike, including Boston; New York-New Jersey; Baltimore; Charleston, S.C.; Savannah, Ga.; Miami; and Houston. These ports oversaw 110 million tons of cargo last year. The nine month long contract talks fell apart on December 18.