NEWARK, N.J. — A letter has been sent from the head of the International Longshoremen's Association, Harold Daggett, to ILA unions, telling them to prepare for a “coastwide strike beginning at 12:01 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 30.“
Included in the letter were a number of items that Daggett said ILA unions needed to review and implement, including the admonition that there be no violence on the ILA pickett line.
This follows the ILA's rejection Dec. 18 of recommendations by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service for a short-term contract extension to keep the ILA and United States Maritime Alliance at the bargaining table.
The ILA’s current contract expires on Dec. 29.
The National Retail Federation Dec. 17 and again Dec. 20 urged President Obama to intervene, saying that “The concern for a coast-wide strike is ever increasing,” while shipping media have reported the likelihood of a “Maine-to-Texas dock strike.”
The NRF said impacted ports are Boston; New York and New Jersey; Delaware River [Philadelphia]; Baltimore; Hampton Roads, Va. [Norfolk]; Wilmington, N.C.; Charleston, S.C.; Savannah, Ga.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Miami; Tampa, Fla.; New Orleans and Houston.
“A strike of any kind at ports along the East and Gulf Coast could prove devastating for the U.S. economy,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay in the Dec. 17 letter to President Obama. “We call upon you to use all means necessary, including Taft-Hartley, to keep the two sides at the negotiating table and head off a coast-wide strike.”
A source close to the matter said other unions, such as the Teamsters, would likely honor the strike, which would not only negatively impact truckers hauling containers on the East and Gulf Coasts but trucking freight in general as goods get bogged down not only at ports but at distribution centers as well.
Port haulers who live paycheck to paycheck may not survive such a widespread strike, he said, adding that the “sticking point” is container royalty and tonnage fees the ILA workers get once a year.
The memo stated that the Alliance’s offer was keeping container royalty payments at 2011 levels for current recipients for up to 25 years or until they leave the industry, whichever comes first, but that new employees wouldn’t be eligible for the royalties.
The source said carriers want to cap the container royalty and tonnage fees at $15,000 after previous bonuses of twice that and lifetime port workers are willing to “go to war” over the royalty issue.
The money was agreed to by liner services when containerization began in the sixties. It was offered to head off a major disruption by dock workers over jobs that would be lost when intermodal shipping boxes were introduced.
The ILA and Maritime Alliance negotiations have been in a struggling mode since last spring.
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