Oregon congressman: West Coast port strife is ‘clearly the greatest threat our nation faces’

Kurt Schrader and representatives from Washington and California are urging the president to help resolve the labor strife crippling West Coast ports.

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Kurt Schrader (D-Oregon) and representatives from Washington and California are urging the president to help resolving the labor strife crippling West Coast ports.

OregonLive.com’s Molly Harbarger writes that their call includes invoking the Taft-Hartley Act:

“Well, this is clearly the greatest threat our nation faces, except for the stuff that’s going on overseas,” Schrader, D-Oregon, said.

The Taft-Hartley Act would allow President Obama to intervene in the contract negotiation between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association, a coalition of 29 West Coast operators including ICTSI Oregon. Schrader and Southwest Washington Rep. Jaime Herrera-Beutler, a Republican, stressed that the recent withdrawal of Hanjin Shipping Co. from the Port of Portland show that port congestion has reached a breaking point.

Schrader appeared at a press conference Thursday — a day after Hanjin announced it would eschew Portland — when he said he would introduce legislation that would force resolution between the union and port operators.

The Portland Tribune reports:

“In January alone, Oregon cherry growers lost over $250,000 of export sales directly related to port disruption; if not resolved, it will lead to a sales loss of $5 million in 2015. Mastercraft Furniture, in my district, had to furlough 180 employees. Rod Lucas of Turner Lumber has had lumber sitting on the docks since November,” Schrader said.

Schrader also noted that Oregon has a $5.4 billion agriculture industry with more than 40% of its agriculture products being exported throughout the world.

The Associated Press reports that retailers are beginning to worry about not being prepared to serve consumers should the port problems persist:

It’s early for many Americans still sloshing through winter to plan their gardens, home improvements and spring sports leagues, but stores gearing up for warmer weather are fretting that they won’t have some products to sell due to a labor crisis at West Coast seaports. The critical gateways for international trade have become more like parking lots for massive cargo ships that haul a you-name-it selection of consumer goods made in Asia and return there with U.S. exports. The result: Containers of shovels, fencing, bathroom tiles, shoes, even parts to make summer camp footlockers are stuck at the docks or on ships anchored just offshore. …

“Someday the snow will melt back East. There’s a huge market for those home-improvement and garden articles,” said Mark Hirzel, president of the Los Angeles Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders Association, whose members help companies get imports to distribution warehouses and send exports overseas.


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