November 20, 2019

West Coast Ports- Sunday Update

Following Saturday’s executive branch action by President Obama on the ongoing West Coast port dispute, Tiffany Hsu, Andrew Khouri and Time Logan reported on the front page of Sunday’s Los Angeles Times that, “With idled cargo ships piling up along the coastline, President Obama ordered his labor secretary to California to try to head off a costly shutdown of 29 West Coast ports.

Obama dispatched Tom Perez on Saturday to jump-start stalled labor talks between shipping companies and the dockworkers’ union. The move ramps up pressure to resolve a dispute that stranded tens of thousands of containers on cargo ships over the holiday weekend.”

The article noted that, “On Saturday morning, 32 massive ships were anchored outside the ports, unable to unload thousands of cargo containers filled with auto parts, electronics and clothes destined for store shelves across the country.”

With respect to agriculture, today’s LA Times article added that, “Elsewhere in the state, the agriculture industry is in pain.

“Ronald C. Leimgruber, namesake and owner of a farm in Holtville in southeastern California, said his small company normally exports two or three 20-ton loads of alfalfa hay and grasses a week . Now, he’s forced to stockpile it or sell it cheaper domestically.

“‘You do whatever you can to survive,’ he said.

“Customers have canceled orders, and Leimgruber fears they may never come back.”

Erik Eckholm reported in today’s New York Times that, “At the president’s request, Thomas E. Perez, the secretary of labor, will travel to California to ‘meet with the parties to urge them to resolve their dispute quickly at the bargaining table,’ according to a statement issued by Eric Schultz, a White House spokesman. Mr. Perez will try to mediate a settlement between an association of the major shipowners of the West Coast and the union of longshoremen who unload those ships, which collectively bring in half the nation’s imported cargo.

“The White House statement said the president was acting ‘out of concern for the economic consequences of further delay’ and added, ‘Secretary Perez is already in contact with the parties and will keep the president fully updated.’

“The unusual decision to intervene in contract negotiations came as American retailers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and agricultural exporters said they had already lost hundreds of millions of dollars because of mounting port congestion, with spare parts and consumer products from Asia not arriving on time and exports like oranges and apples left to rot.”

The New York Times article noted that, “The total number of ships waiting to dock at these two conjoined ports on Saturday, including bulk and general cargo carriers, was 32.”


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