League Urges Port, Labor Leaders to Resume Bargaining

The National Industrial Transportation League is urging officials representing East and Gulf Coast ports and the International Longshoremen’s Association to return to the bargaining table and resume negotiating a new master contract covering the ports.

In a letter to Harold Daggett, president of the ILA, and David Adam, chairman and CEO of the U.S. Maritime Alliance, the League expressed its “deep concern” that the two parties had not yet agreed to resume talks, which broke down December 6 over a disagreement about automated terminals. The current master contract covering the ports will expire on September 30.

The letter, which was signed by NITL and more than 110 other transportation, retail, consumer, and trade organizations, notes that a contract extension would benefit all parties with a stake in port operations by providing them with the “certainty” they need to conduct business. But it also warns that failing to resume negotiations could prompt shippers and cargo owners to begin making plans to shift to West Coast ports, where the master contract will not expire until 2022.

“Supply chain disruptions arising out of previous contract negotiations are well documented,” the letter states. “Such disruptions can have enormous adverse economic impacts. For example, disruptions on the West Coast caused marked shifts in business operations that benefitted East and Gulf Coast ports. Much of that new business has stayed on the East and Gulf Coasts, but could just as easily shift back to West Coast gateways, where a long-term contract is in place.”