U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein yesterday sent a letter to the presidents of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), urging them to swiftly resolve the outstanding issues that remain in their contract negotiation, which has drastically slowed and at times stopped work at the West Coast ports.
Senators Boxer and Feinstein wrote that the impasse has serious and troubling ramifications for the state and for the nation.
“The economic impact of the increased congestion at the ports is simply unacceptable and unsustainable,” they wrote.
In their letter, they identify 17 ships anchored at bay awaiting the opportunity to come into port at the Port of Oakland. The letter said 22 ships are anchored at bay awaiting the chance to dock at the Los Angeles – Long Beach Port Complex.
Under normal operating circumstances, these ships rarely have to wait to dock. Ships have been diverted from California ports in search of more efficient offloading sites. Long-term damage to the competitiveness of California ports may have already occurred. These are terrible circumstances, the senators wrote.
Companies Stuck in the Middle
In a story from the Port of Seattle yesterday, Dan Springer from Fox News explained this standoff leaves companies stuck in the middle.
The story highlighted several companies, including a Hawaiian spring water company that can’t get its bottles or labels delivered, California wineries that can’t get their cork shipment and organic food processors that are unable to export their goods to Asia.
Senators Boxers and Feinstein share similar stories in their letter.
“The continued congestion, delays, terminal closures, night shift reductions, and slowdowns at the ports have led to extremely late deliveries and billions of dollars in disrupted sales of critically needed goods, including agriculture and textile products in important export markets,” they wrote.
Boxer and Feinstein remind the ILWU and PMA that the citrus industry is entering its peak exporting season in February and March but has been experiencing customer delivery delays of three to four weeks.
Moreover, a large shipment of California rice destined for Asia is likely to be cancelled, costing farmers in California tens of millions of dollars in income, the senators wrote.
“The slowdown at the ports has also disrupted the supply chains of California-based retailers, and has forced them to rely more on expensive air freight services to ensure their products reach American consumers,” the senators said. “Clearly the ramifications of this slowdown are hurting the California economy and our households, small businesses and communities. This is unacceptable.”
Looking for Resolution
Senators Boxer and Feinstein urge the ILWU and PMA to focus on the remaining issues at hand and to reject any further pressure tactics that contribute to the slowdown.
“The stakes are far too high for the status quo to persist,” they wrote. “It is imperative that you achieve an agreement immediately.”
Springer put the costs to businesses and consumers in perspective:
“The ripple effect of a full lockout or strike would be seen across this entire county. Twelve percent of the nation’s GDP is moved through West Coast ports, worth more than 2 trillion dollars annually and supporting more than 9 million jobs nationwide.”