Political pressure grows on Obama to end port slowdowns
West Coast elected officials are becoming increasingly alarmed about the port slowdowns in Oregon, California and Washington. More and more of them are urging the terminal operates and their union employees to settle their differences some are calling for President Obama to use the federal Taft-Hartley Act to force a resolution, if necessary.
Obama has directed U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez to help mediate discussions between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association, a coalition of 29 West Coast terminal operators. But that has not stopped the officials from continuing to calling for an end to the dispute.
The most recent officials to speak out are the governors of the three states, who issued a statement calling for a quick resolution of the dispute on Wednesday. It was signed by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, California Gov. Jerry Brown, and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.
"Our local farmers, small businesses and communities in Oregon are in limbo because of the uncertainty surrounding the West Coast and Oregon ports. We urge all parties to rise above their differences and find a common solution to avoid the disruptions that are beginning to suppress our efforts to ensure a strong, growing economy across the state, said Brown, whose participation in the statement was one of her first official actions since being sworn in to replace former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber Wednesday morning.
Before that, a bipartisan group of West Coast U.S. representatives called on the two sides to settle the dispute on Friday. They also said Obama should invoke the Taft-Hartley Act, if necessary. It was last used by President Bush in 2002 to stop the lockout of longshore workers by West Coast port operators.
It is time for the Pacific Maritime Association and the ILWU to recognize that the consequences of their actions reverberate far beyond their own personal concerns, said Oregon U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader, who is part of the coalition. They need to immediately conclude their negotiations before they do any further harm to the economy.
Also on Friday, all five members of the Oregon Congressional delegation signed a letter to Obama supporting his efforts to mediate the dispute and calling on all parties to swiftly resolve their dispute.
"Our delegation has heard many stores of hardship occasioned by the difficulties at Oregon's ports affecting both workers and businesses large and small," the letter read.
And on Friday, Oregon U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley also wrote to the heads of the ILWU and PMA on Friday, calling on them to settle their differences. They sent a similar letter two months ago but did not get a reply from either side.