White House comments on port disruptions as trade groups call for intervention


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White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre avoided saying whether the White House has plans to intervene in the West Coast port dispute when asked during a Wednesday briefing.

Instead, the press secretary called on the parties to finish negotiations at the table.

“So when it comes to the [West Coast] ports, I can say that the President respects the collective bargaining process,” Jean-Pierre said, according to a transcript of the briefing. “And [Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su] and others in the administration are regularly engaging with the parties, encouraging them to stay at the negotiating table and finish their work.”

The response comes as several trade associations called on the Biden administration to intervene in the negotiations between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and Pacific Maritime Association, after multiple terminal gate closures occurred over the past week.

“The path forward is for the port workers and their employers to resolve the negotiations so that workers get the wages, benefits, and quality of life that they so deserve,” Jean-Pierre said, commenting also on negotiations between UPS and the Teamsters. “And so that’s what we’re going to continue to call for: asking both parties to come to the table so this can be — so this can be dealt with.”

Here’s a look at what several trade associations had to say when they called for the Biden administration to intervene in the West Coast port dispute.

Retail Industry Leaders Association (June 2)

As port disruptions were first starting on Friday, the Retail Industry Leaders Association issued a statement and said any interruption or disruption in port operations could immediately create ripple effects that would make it harder for retailers to deliver for the American consumer.

“With supply chains that have grown increasingly flexible and resilient under extreme circumstances over the last several years, leading retailers will continue to take every measure to ensure customers do not feel the impact of this activity,” RILA Vice President of Supply Chain Jessica Dankert said in a statement.

Dankert went on to say that it was imperative that all parties convene to resolve Friday’s stoppage as soon as possible and continue negotiations.

“If this work stoppage drags on and contract negotiations continue to falter, the Biden-Harris administration must step in and broker a deal,” she said.

National Retail Federation (June 5)

The following Monday, the National Retail Federation said the West Coast plays a critical role in the American economy as thousands of retailers and other businesses depend on it for smooth and efficient operations.

“As we enter the peak shipping season for the holidays, these additional disruptions will force retailers and other important shipping partners to continue to shift cargo away from the West Coast ports until a new labor contract is established,” the statement reads.

“It is imperative that the parties return to the negotiating table. We urge the administration to mediate to ensure the parties quickly finalize a new contract without additional disruptions.”

The association said it has been vocal about the labor negotiations in the past. In March, the organization also signed a coalition letter addressed to President Biden, urging the administration for engagement with both the ILWU and PMA. And in April, NRF issued a statement after terminal closures halted operations in the San Pedro Bay Ports.

American Apparel & Footwear Association (June 6)

The American Apparel & Footwear Association said on Tuesday that avoiding work stoppages was imperative as back-to-school shopping and holiday shopping seasons near, and the two parties reach almost a year since their labor contract first expired.

“Despite alignment on some elements of the contracts, there appears to be stalled progress towards a new long-term agreement. Any port closure creates backups that immediately impact the delivery of goods to stores and warehouses, which will adversely impact American consumers, workers, and businesses,” said AAFA President and CEO Steve Lamar.

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