Obama administration moves to end West Coast port dispute

The National Retail Federation is welcoming the direct involvement of Labor Secretary Tom Perez in the ongoing dispute between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and Pacific Maritime Association (PMA).

The Obama administration has dispatched Perez to participate in talks aimed at ending the standoff between West Coast port workers and management which resulted in a four-day shutdown of ports on the U.S. West Coast from Feb. 13-16.

Jonathan Gold, VP of supply chain for the NRF, applauded the decision to directly involve Perez.

"We welcome the administration's attention to this important national and international economic and supply chain issue and hope it recommits the two sides to reaching a deal,” said Gold. “The slowdowns, congestion and suspensions at the West Coast ports need to end now."

Gold, who initially sent a public letter to the Obama administration asking for direct involvement in the West Coast port dispute in November 2014, made additional comments on the situation during a televised interview with Fox Business News on Monday, Feb. 16.

“After nine months, it’s time for parties to come to a final agreement,” said Gold. “They need to work out their final issues, get a deal, and move on.”

The port shutdown is estimated to have cost the U.S. economy $2 billion a day. According to Gold, wage issues have been resolved, but disagreement continues about mediation of workplace disputes, as well as other possible unidentified issues. The NRF is not directly involved in any negotiations.

In addition to the retail industry, Gold said other industries such as manufacturing and farming have also been calling for an end to the dispute. Some West Coast port business has already shifted to ports on the East Coast and Gulf Coast of the U.S., and Gold raised another possibility that would take West Coast port business outside of the country.

“We could lose business to the Panama Canal,” said Gold. The Panama Canal is currently undergoing renovations to allow larger vessels to pass through.

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