Contract Problems at the Ports

break bulkIt is no secret that there is mass congestion currently at the US West Coast ports. While there are numerous reasons that attributed to the congestion, some people believe that a specific reason is causing the biggest delays. Fedex Corp blamed the recent congestion on a labor dispute at the ports. There are contract negotiations currently occurring between the stevedores in the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association. Both parties are in a major disagreement. A Federal Mediator is now being requested so that both parties can agree to a new contract. While there is no current strike, if one were to occur, it could cost the economy an estimated $2 billion a day. Freight forwarders are hoping that no work stoppage occurs.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, the President of the American Action Forum, suggested an alternative to prevent the congestions at the ports. Currently, the port workers are governed under the National Labor Relations Act. The suggestion was to govern the workers under the Railway Labor Act, like other transportation workers, so that a mediator can be brought in without stoppage.

The problem with organizing the ocean freight shipping unions at the ports under the Railway Labor Act is that the unions need to be organized on the local level with local elections. The Railway Labor Act would force the unions to create a single national union where the majority of all workers, including workers who choose not to vote, would be required to pass any resolutions. That is why the current system with the National Labor Relations Act is better equipped to handle the situation.

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