Bush on port stalemate: Get back to work!

Invoking the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, President Bush asked a federal court to order a stop to the 10–day West Coast port lockout. The court-ordered truce will keep ports open through the Christmas season, which accounts for 40% of retailers’ annual sales.

The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), which represents shipping companies and terminal operators, closed 29 major West Coast ports on Sept. 29 after alleging that International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) workers were staging work slowdowns.

The PMA and the union are negotiating a labor contract; the dispute centers around the implementation of waterfront technology that the dock workers believe would lead to layoffs. The PMA said it would order ILWU workers to report to shifts that start at 6 p.m. on Oct. 9 in most ports.

Some estimates put the price tag for the West Coast port lockout at $1 billion – $2 billion daily. The ports, which handle more than $300 billion in trade annually, account for more than half of all containerized cargo moving in and out of the country. And the longshoremen may need as long as two and a half months to clear the backlog of goods that resulted from the lockout.