Obama Faces “Container Cliff” Pressure, Too

In Industry News, What's New by Jeff PrineLeave a Comment

Washington–The pressure is on President Obama not only regarding the impending fiscal cliff, but also the so-called “container cliff” which could hit even earlier, Dec. 29.

That’s the date that the International Longshoreman’s Association (ILA) may go on strike at East Coast ports from Maine to Texas if the union doesn’t reach an agreement with the U.S. Maritime Alliance (USMX). Since these ports account for more than 95% containerized shipments including most apparel, accessories and footwear, deliveries to retail could be stymied in the first months of 2013.

Top industry associations, including the National Retail Federation (NRF), the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) and the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), have all called upon President Obama to intervene in the negotiations, and if necessary, invoke the Taft-Hartley Act to force workers back to their port jobs.

Taft-Hartley Act Invoked in Event of a Strike?

Should a walk out occur–the first since 1977–President Obama would be left to choose between forsaking a pro-labor stance by invoking Taft-Hartley Act or allowing a union action that could compound the effects of the fiscal cliff.

Federal mediators have been pushing for a deal between dockworkers and their employers before a Dec. 29 deadline. Talks between the ILA and the USMX  broke down last week amid a dispute over so-called container royalty fees, or levies that supplement wages. Meanwhile, federal mediators organized another meeting this week but the parties involved have declined to provide any details on the new talks, according to the Associated Press.

Bloomberg News reported that White House spokesman Matt Lehrich declined to comment beyond a statement last week that the administration was monitoring the port situation and urged the parties “to continue their work at the negotiating table to get a deal done as quickly as possible.”

The AAFA is providing updates for retailers and manufacturers on the situation on its Twitter feed: @apparelfootwear.