The International Longshoremen Association (ILA) and the U.S. Maritime Alliance (USMX) are in negotiations involving a new labor contract. They cannot agree on issues concerning union compensation, and with a deadline for a new contract drawing near, December 29, 2012, there is concern a strike is imminent.
ILA is a labor union representing longshoremen along the east coast, gulf coast, and great lakes of the United States in addition to Puerto Rico, and Canada. Along the east coast and gulf coast they represent 15,000 union workers in 14 seaports.
USMX is an alliance of container carriers, direct employers, and port associations. In addition to other duties, USMX serves as the representatives of management groups in contract negotiations.
If a strike occurs, an estimated 15,000 longshoremen would be involved throughout the east coast and gulf coast seaports, to include the Port of Miami and Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale.
Harold Daggett, President of the ILA has said, “Negotiations are not progressing well and it is expected that there will be a coastwise strike beginning at 12:01am on Sunday December 30, 2012.”
The potential strike is not expected to affect the cruise ship business; however, the container business will be affected. The Port of Miami moves an estimated $20 billion a year in container business.
Bill Johnson, Director of the Port of Miami has said, “A strike would affect far more than the 6,000 workers at the port, putting a virtual halt to one of the largest economic engines in the county. Cargo operators are about 40 percent of the ports’ business.”
Ellen Kennedy, spokesperson for Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, has said, “Cargo makes up almost a third of Port Everglades’ business, but as only two container shipping companies use the longshoremen’s union at the port, the amount of business affected would be much lower.”
Governor Rick Scott has said, “The predicted affects of a strike on the state of Florida would be devastating. Cargo related activity at Florida seaports currently generates more than 550,000 direct and indirect jobs in Florida, and contribute approximately $66 billion in economic value to Florida’s economy.”
Governor Scott has contacted President Barack Obama with a request to enact the Taft-Hartley Act which requires labor unions give an 80 day notice before their members can strike, and authorizes the President to intervene in strikes or potential strikes that create a national emergency. The last President to invoke the Taft-Hartley Act was George W. Bush, in connection with a lockout of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union during negotiations with shipping and stevedoring companies in 2001.
Hoping to avert a strike, the ILC and the USMX have agreed to resume contract talks before the December 30, 2012 strike deadline. The sides have agreed to mediation with the assistance of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.
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