The National Industrial Transportation League, the United States’ largest shipper organization, urged President Obama to intervene quickly if the International Longshoremen’s Association goes on strike at East and Gulf coast ports.
NITL President and CEO Bruce Carlton said in a letter to Obama that manufacturers, retailers, farmers and others would be hurt by an ILA strike. “We respectfully ask you to be prepared to immediately put into place measures within your authority to continue operations and services while more time is secured to reach an agreement through collective bargaining,” Carlton’s letter said.
The Taft-Hartley Act empowers the president to intervene to halt work stoppages that threaten national health or safety. The law allows the president to seek a court injunction for a back-to-work order during an 80-day cooling-off period. The law was last used in 2002 to end a 10-day lockout of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union on the West Coast.
The NITL letter followed a vote this week by ILA delegates to authorize union president Harold Daggett to call a strike if no contract is reached by Dec. 29, when a 90-day extension of the current contract expires.
Representatives of the ILA and United States Maritime Alliance are scheduled to meet Tuesday to discuss container royalties, one of the chief sticking points in negotiations for an East and Gulf coast master contract. Daggett said this week that if the royalty issue can be worked out, the ILA will call off its strike threat.
Container royalties provide annual payouts to ILA members from ocean carriers’ per-ton payments on containerized cargo. The ILA is resisting USMX proposals to cap payouts at current levels, which averaged $15,500 last year, and use the excess to fund other ILA benefits, and to eliminate payouts for new hires.