AAFA to Obama: Avert East Coast Port Strike

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The port at Savannah, Ga., is one of dozens on the East Coast that would be affected should a strike occur on Dec. 29.

Alexandria, VA—While President Obama and Congress continue to haggle over a solution to the impending “fiscal cliff,” apparel, accessories and footwear importers and retailers are worried about another upcoming deadline: Dec. 29. If no deal is reached in the contract negotiations between the International Longshoremen Association (ILA) and United States Maritime Alliance (USMX) by that date, a strike could hit East Coast ports from Maine to Texas.

The American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) today called on President Obama to immediately seek resolution to contract negotiations between the ILA and USMX.

“Because 98% of the apparel and 99% of the footwear sold in the United States is produced internationally, four million workers in the U.S. apparel and footwear industry rely on operational ports for their livelihoods,” said Kevin Burke, AAFA president/ceo.

“If the economic damage done during the West Coast strike is any example, we hope all parties are negotiating in earnest to prevent a strike from ever occurring. This includes President Obama.”

Worse Than West Coast Port Strike?

Noting the eight-day port strike at the port of Los Angeles and Long Beach that ended last week, the AAFA said that strike caused significant delays and economic losses for the U.S. apparel and footwear industry.

While it will be several months until the industry is able to identify the full economic impact of the strike, early estimates are in the millions of dollars.

“One AAFA-member company alone has already spent more than $1 million in contingency planning, including identifying alternate shipping methods and routes,” the AAFA noted.  “On top of the immediate transportation cost increases, the industry could be faced with more economic losses in the form of chargebacks from retailers for missed or delayed deliveries caused by work stoppages at the ports.”

The AAFA sent a letter to President Obama imploring him to intercede in the East Coast port labor negotiations to reach a deal before the current contract expires.

Citing national and economic security concerns in the event of an East Coast port strike, AAFA also encouraged the president to invoke the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, a federal law that would keep the ports at full operational capacity while a deal is reached.

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