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Senators Wyden and Merkley Call for Resolution in Port Labor Dispute

Monday, February 16, 2015

 

U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley asked for a resolution in the labor negotiations that have been slowing productivity at ports all along the west coast. 

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association have been in contract negotiations since July 2014. The labor dispute has caused congestion and delays for west coast ports, including the Port of Portland

The letter, sent on Friday, was the second the two senators have written to the negotiating parties. 

“The economic damage created by this stalemate is unsustainable,” Wyden and Merkley wrote in the letter. “Continued congestion and delays at Oregon ports will result in significant long-term challenges for our state’s economy. The Port of Portland alone serves more the 900 businesses that are dependent on efficiently functioning port operations to ship their goods to and from international markets.” 

Wyden and Merkley urged both parties resume full operations at ports in the letter, as well as reach a conclusion in the contract negotiations. The two said the conflict is putting Oregon jobs in jeopardy, referencing Hanjin Shipping's announcement the company would be leaving the Port of Portland.  The shipping company accounted for 78 percent of the Port’s container shipping business and 650 jobs. 

 

Here is Wyden and Merkley's full letter, addressed to ILWU President Robert McEllrath and PMA President and CEO James C. McKenna:  

This letter follows repeated requests for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union(ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) to negotiate in earnest to reach a swift andsatisfactory conclusion to its current contract deliberations. Unfortunately, sixty days have passed since our last letter with no such conclusion while the economic toll for Oregon businesses and employees who depend on efficiently functioning ports continues to worsen. The economic damage created by this stalemate is unsustainable.

Today we respectfully ask both parties to follow the established pathway that has been used successfully for decades by firefighters and police, and agree to enter binding arbitration with the assistance of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services (FMCS), to reach an agreement onthe proposed collective bargaining agreement between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA).

In addition, we strongly urge both parties to immediately resume port operations at full capacitywhile the final issues are negotiated. Continued congestion and delays at Oregon ports willresult in significant long-term challenges for our state's economy. The Port of Portland alone serves more the 900 businesses that are dependent on efficiently functioning port operations to ship their goods to and from international markets. Furthermore, the ongoing dispute hasresulted in the partial shutdown of operations at 29 ports on the West Coast.

We are concerned that if a new collective bargaining agreement is not reached soon, thousands of Oregon jobs will be in jeopardy, and in the long term, demand for American made products and agricultural commodities could significantly diminish. As you well know, the recent announcement that Hanjin Shipping Company will no longer call Portland after March 9 represents a loss of 78% of the shipping volume at Terminal 6 which has supported over 650 jobs and $33 million in annual wages.

A final contract agreement is necessary for the success of Oregon's businesses, communities,and families. We strongly urge both sides to enter into binding arbitration in the interests of all stakeholders affected by this impasse and make every effort possible to quickly reach a final contract agreement.

 

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