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NAM: President gets serious about West Coast ports

The Denver Post (2/20, Board) editorial board expresses approval that President Obama has finally seemed to get serious about resolving the West Coast port labor dispute, and hopes that Labor Secretary Thomas Perez and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker can help broker a deal between the dock workers and the shippers. The Post states that US farmers have been unable to ship produce overseas and manufacturers have been unable to obtain needed supplies. According to the Post, NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons stated that more problems have been caused by the labor dispute than people understand. The Post adds that some estimates say a complete shutdown of the ports could cost the US economy $2 billion per day.

California Senators Urge For Quick Resolution To Labor Dispute. According to The Hill (2/20, Laing), a letter by California Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D) and Barbara Boxer (D) requests that the West Coast port managers and union leaders “negotiate a deal quickly” because of the building congestion at the ports. The Hill reports the letter stated that the senators found it “highly disappointing” that the “only issue that stands between further damage to our economy and a contract agreeable to both parties is the choice of an arbitrator.” The letter continued by saying that failure to resolve the dispute “would be devastating to our economy and to the millions of people who work hard every day for agricultural producers, manufacturers and other businesses.” The Hill also noted statements by the NAM and the National Retail Federation that said a “prolonged shutdown could be catastrophic for the nation’s economy.”

The KGO-TV San Francisco (2/20, Anthony) website reports that the economic impact of the West Coast ports work slowdown “is beginning to add up,” with NAM estimates stating a “10-day shutdown could cost $20 billion.” According to the website, Mayor of Oakland Libby Schaaf noted that West Coast ports may loose business “permanently” due to the labor dispute, as shipping could “easily go to Vancouver, to Mexico, to ports on the gulf.”

Trade Groups Discuss Changing Laws Governing Port Labor. The Salem (OR) Capital Press (2/19) reports Chris Schlect, president of Northwest Horticultural Council proposed an idea originally raised by former Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin in a Dec. 7 Wall Street Journal op-ed: to place “longshoremen under the Railway Labor Act,” which would keep the ports operating during labor disputes. According to the Capital Press, Schlect stated that trade groups have discussed the idea because it is unacceptable that “a small number of well-paid people” can shut down West Coast commerce, but he added that it would be “a longterm solution because President Obama would not sign such legislation.” The Press notes one trade group director who stated that no group has moved forward with the idea yet because it “would be all out war” with unions opposing it.

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