CalChamber, Broad Business Coalition Support Federal Ports Legislation

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FedUpdate

The California Chamber of Commerce has joined a large coalition to ensure that port disruptions due to labor contract negotiations do not have a negative impact on the U.S. economy.

The coalition is supporting federal legislation introduced recently by U.S. Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) as the “Protecting Orderly and Responsible Transit of Shipments Act of 2015” (PORTS Act).

Coalition members include manufacturers, farmers and agribusinesses, wholesalers, retailers, importers, exporters, distributors, and transportation and logistics providers.

PORTS Act

While the coalition supports the collective bargaining process, the coalition believes the negotiating process should not threaten the national economy.

The PORTS Act amends the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) to provide governors a mechanism under federal law to mitigate the destructive impact of a port labor dispute on the economy in their state and nationally.

The bill explicitly includes slowdowns as a trigger for Taft-Hartley emergency powers. Coalition members believe this approach correctly reforms the Taft-Hartley process to promote government action in response to the great harm these disputes cause the national economy. Most important, the bill clearly defines and expands situations in which Taft-Hartley can be invoked, preventing legal ambiguity from causing inaction.

Recent Labor Disputes

Contract negotiations and related labor disputes between the longshoremen and management at U.S. ports on both the East and West coasts have become increasingly complex and contentious over the last decade.

The strikes, lockouts and slowdowns that frequently accompany contract negotiations have caused significant harm to the U.S. economy and the millions of businesses and jobs that rely on the efficient movement of cargo through the ports.

The 2002 West Coast ports lockout cost the U.S. economy $1 billion a day, by some estimates, while re-establishing normal operations took more than six months. Although there weren’t any disruptions during the 2012 East/Gulf Coast negotiations, the constant threat of labor action forced companies to institute costly contingency plans to avoid threatened disruption.

The West Coast ports have finally cleared the backlog created by the congestion and slowdowns during the 2014–2015 negotiations, but the economic damage has been done. The operational meltdown just experienced is a chief cause of the negative growth in the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) in the first quarter.

The coalition believes the PORTS Act is a tool that will help provide certainty to future negotiations.

Action Needed

CalChamber is urging businesses to contact members of the California congressional delegation and urge them to support the PORTS Act. An easy-to-edit sample letter is available at www.calchambervotes.com.

Staff Contacts: Jeremy Merz, Susanne Stirling

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Jeremy Merz
About Jeremy Merz
Jeremy Merz specialized in workers’ compensation, taxation, privacy, transportation and infrastructure issues while a CalChamber policy advocate from December 2011 through December 2016. He now is vice president, state affairs – western region at the American Insurance Association. Merz came to the CalChamber from Downey Brand, LLP, where he represented private defendants in state and federal courts on business litigation, employment law and workers’ compensation litigation. He earned a B.A. in economics from the University of California at Davis and a J.D. with distinction from the McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific, where he served on the editorial board of the McGeorge Law Review.