RILA president speaks to stalemate at West Coast ports

Sandy Kennedy, president of the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), has offered her two cents on the standoff surrounding the union negotiations at the West Coast ports.

Kennedy addressed a letter to the heads of the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), speaking on behalf of retailers who are experiencing uncertainty and instability over the ongoing conflict.

“Without a finalized contract, the chief concern of a possible repeat of the 2002 shutdown remains,” she wrote. “Retailers continue to exercise contingency plans throughout their massive supply chain operations despite the fact the West Coast negotiations have not reached an impasse. While goods continue to move at an efficient rate through the West Coast ports of entry, each day without a finalized agreement jeopardizes the movement of goods destined for shelves during the all-important Holiday season.”

The organizations have been struggling over negotiations for the past couple of months since their six-year agreement expired.

Though goods are being moved at the ports, many in the retail community fear a repeat of the 2002 stalemate, during which the American economy lost nearly $1 billion per day. Without a contract, a strike remains a possibility.

An HCN poll of industry readers found that the majority -- 38% -- are watching the conflict "somewhat closely," as their businesses have other options in a worst-case scenario. Several (36%) said they wouldn't be affected by a strike, and a good deal (27%) are waiting with baited breath, fearing the fallout from a disruption in the supply chain.

“It is our hope that both sides are engaged in open and honest discussions, moving with haste toward a long-term solution that will stabilize the labor picture on the West Coast," added Kennedy. "Securing an agreement is of paramount importance to the retail industry."

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