December 4, 2012 3:15 PM, EST
Groups Urge White House to Help End Strike At SoCal Ports; Federal Mediator Steps In
TT File Photo — Larry Smith/Trans Pixs

A coalition of about 100 business groups, including shipping and trucking associations, sent a letter to President Obama Tuesday urging the White House to “take immediate action” to help end the strike entering its second week at the Southern California ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Separately, a federal mediator late Tuesday agreed to step in to attempt to resolve the dispute.

Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Director George Cohen said in a statement: “Based on a joint request from the parties, negotiations between the International Longshoremen and Warehouse Union Office Clerical Workers and the Harbor Employers Association will be conducted under FMCS auspices . . .  at a date and location to be determined.”

He added that “due to the extreme sensitivity of these negotiations [the service] will refrain from any public comment concerning the future schedule and/or the status of the negotiations until further notice.” FMCS is an agency of the U.S. Department of Labor.

Groups that signed the letter to the White House included American Trucking Associations, the National Retail Federation, the National Industrial Transportation League and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as well as the mayors of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

The strike began last Tuesday when clerical workers at the Port of Los Angeles walked off the job in a labor dispute, and late last week spread to neighboring Long Beach. The two facilities make up the largest U.S. port complex.

“We recognize the difficulties of government intervention in labor disputes,” the letter said. “However, this dispute has already harmed many economic interests across the country . . . [and] we urge you to take immediate action and use whatever means necessary . . . to get labor back to work in the nation’s largest ports.”

The letter said that some cargo destined for the two ports already has been diverted to Canada and Mexico, and that because of the strike:

• Exporters will fail to meet delivery times for their customers in the Far East;

• Exporters of perishable cargos have already been affected;

• Agricultural interests will have to divert production to domestic use, or freeze produce instead of shipping it fresh, thereby losing significant economic value;

• Retailers will be unable to get goods to their store shelves in a timely fashion; and,

• Importers, wholesalers, and U.S. consumer brands will face order cancellations if they cannot meet delivery dates.

Click here to view the letter. (NITL website; PDF document.)