As we have chronicled here in recent days, U.S. agricultural shippers are demanding that a solution to the West Coast dockside labor problem be made a national priority. They argue – and quite rightly from our point of view – that the lack of progress in contract talks between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) threaten the President’s own National Export Initiative.
The Agriculture Transportation Coalition has asked the Administration to bring in a federal mediator to help resolve the negotiations, and if a strike or lockout occurs, the AgTC advocates the rarely-invoked Taft-Hartley Act.
Will this President – so tightly wed to organized labor’s financial and political support – have the courage to make such a decision? Early indications suggest the answer is “No.”
White House spokesmen have expressed their belief that collective bargaining will succeed, and have declined to speculate on what steps might be taken to hasten a resolution. Meanwhile, the value and viability of perishable exports continues its steep decline.
Peter Friedmann, executive director of the AgTC observes:
“There is nothing that we produce in this country in agriculture and forest products, that cannot be sourced somewhere else in the world. We can grow the best in the world, but if we can’t deliver our products affordably and dependably, the customer will go somewhere else… and may never come back.”