Nine members of Congress, led by Washington Reps. Dan Newhouse and Dave Reichert, are urging the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association to find ways to prevent port disruptions.
A work slowdown crippled container exports in 2014 and 2015.
At a conference in Long Beach, Calif., at the end of February, the presidents of ILWU and PMA said they are willing to raise the possibility of extending the agreement reached in 2015 beyond its July 1, 2019, expiration.
In light of that, Newhouse and Reichert, both Republicans, authored a letter to ILWU and PMA encouraging them to discuss options to preclude disruptions.
“Because workers, farmers and businesses rely on the efficient movement of goods, we place great importance on the normal and functional operation of our ports,” the letter states.
The 2014-2015 slowdown cost farmers, manufacturers and retailers across the Western hundreds of millions of dollars in losses because they could not get their goods to market, the letter states. Foreign market shares were lost, hurting businesses, ports, workers and shippers.
The letter was signed by Newhouse, Reichert and Reps: Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash.; Kurt Schrader, D-Ore.; Mike Simpson, R-Idaho; Mike Coffman, R-Colo.; Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif.; Devin Nunes, R-Calif.; and Amata Radewagen, R-American Samoa.
“An extension of the agreement would restore confidence in port reliability and some market share lost to foreign competitors,” said Will Boyington, a Newhouse spokesman.
The letter encourages the ILWU and PMA and puts them on notice that there is congressional scrutiny, he said.
At the end of last year, a Newhouse-Schrader amendment included the Port Performance Program in a transportation bill, the FAST Act, HR 22, that passed the House and Senate and was signed into law by President Obama.
The program requires the reporting of port statistics by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics to serve as a baseline in determining the economic impacts of port slowdowns.
Newhouse and Schrader last year also introduced HR 3932, the ECONOMICS Act. It would establish economic triggers that would require a board of inquiry to recommend to the president if judicial injunctions should be sought to end strikes or slowdowns.
Newhouse and Reichert also introduced HR 3398, the PORTS Act, last year allowing governors of seaport states and territories to initiate boards of inquiry under the Taft-Hartley Act in the event of work slowdowns or strikes.
Both of those bills have been referred to committees and member support is being built, Boyington said.