Port strike deadline raises pressure for Obama intervention
WASHINGTON (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama is facing pressure to block a strike that would gridlock eastern U.S. ports and risk damaging industries that include auto manufacturing.
Federal mediators have been pushing for a deal between dockworkers and their employers before a Dec. 29 deadline. Talks between the International Longshoremen’s Association and the U.S. Maritime Alliance broke down last week amid a dispute over container royalty fees, levies that supplement wages.
A walkout would be the first at East Coast and Gulf Coast ports since 1977, and would halt shipments of containerized cargo, including clothing, frozen foods and car parts. Obama would be left to choose between forsaking a pro-labor stance by invoking the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act and allowing a union action that could compound the effects of the fiscal cliff.
“To throw that kind of a strike on top of the economy right away in January, I’m sure is something the administration would rather not see,” Mike Asensio, a labor lawyer at Baker Hostetler LLP in Columbus, Ohio, said in a telephone interview. “Would it create that much of a nightmare for him that they would be willing to do something that would anger part of their constituency in organized labor? That’s the $64,000 question.”
Matt Lehrich, a White House spokesman, declined to comment beyond a statement last week that the administration was monitoring the situation and urging the parties “to continue their work at the negotiating table to get a deal done as quickly as possible.”
The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, which has guided talks since September, organized a meeting between the two sides this week in an 11th-hour effort to salvage negotiations. All three parties declined to provide further details on the new talks.Contact Automotive News