Can the U.S. federal government help resolve an ongoing labor dispute at 29 West Coast ports that is wreaking havoc with the supply chains of manufacturers, retailers and farmers?
It's going to try.
The White House on Saturday announced that Labor Secretary Thomas Perez would meet with the two parties to the West Coast port dispute "to urge them to resolve differences at the bargaining table," according to Eric Shultz, principal deputy White House press secretary.
The parties are the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.
The consequences of the labor dispute between dockworkers and the operators of the port terminals and shipping lines have played out for months up and down the West Coast, as well as much further afield. On Saturday, for example, 32 ships were anchored outside the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach "unable to unload thousands of cargo containers filled with auto parts, electronics and clothes," reported the Los Angeles Times.
And Honda on Sunday said it would slow production in manufacturing plants in Canada and the U.S. due to part shortages caused by slowdowns at the West Coast ports, Reuters reported.
"We do not have a sufficient supply of several critical parts to keep the production lines running smoothly and efficiently," Honda spokesman Mark Morrison told Reuters.
The National Retail Federation has been among the most vocal critics."Enough is enough. The escalating rhetoric, the threats, the dueling press releases and the inability to find common ground between the two sides are simply driving up the cost of products, jeopardizing American jobs and threatening the long term viability of businesses large and small," NRF Vice President for Supply Chain Jonathan Gold said in a Feb. 6 statement following word of a temporary suspension of vessel operations.
Honda to slow U.S. output due to West Coast ports dispute http://t.co/1AtKDOn8GE— Reuters Business (@ReutersBiz) February 15, 2015
The dispute between the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union dates back to May 2014, when negotiations on a new contract commenced. Dockworkers have been working without a contract since July.
Since then, both parties have laid blame on each other for the ports congestion, slowdowns and work stoppages.
On Feb. 12, lawmakers held a bipartisan press conference calling for swift conclusion by the PMA and ILWU to contract negotiations. "If they refuse to do so, I urge the president of the United States to use his powers, afforded by him and for him, under Taft-Hartley to end this dispute once and for all," said U.S. Congressman Kurt Schrader.