East Coast/Gulf Coast Port Strike Averted

September 20, 2012

A looming strike at East Coast and Gulf Coast ports has been averted for the time being.

After working with mediators from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, the International Longshoremen's Association and the United States Maritime Alliance agreed to extend the Sept. 30 deadline for a new contract until Dec. 29. They have also agreed to continue negotiations.

In a statement, FMCS Director George H. Cohen said of the reasoning behind the extension of 90 days: "The parties emphasized that they are doing so, 'for the good of the country' to avoid any interruption in interstate commerce," said Cohen.

The statement goes on to indicate that negotiations will continue with the help of the FMCS.

The widespread implications of a potential strike by longshoremen at 14 East Coast and Gulf Coast ports became quickly apparent, as the Sept. 30 deadline for a new contract had many industries watching closely and making contingency plans.

Curtis Whalen, executive director of the American Trucking Associations' Intermodal Carrier Conference, said that if the strike were to have taken place, the impact would have been profound.

"This is what we historically know as the peak season, and volumes are projected to be increasing. This strike would have [had] a financial impact on the stores, on the customers, on everyone-including those in the trucking industry. It would have [had] an immense impact," Whalen said.

The National Retail Federation applauded the move but urged both sides to keep negotiating.

""While this extension, facilitated by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, will provide both sides with more time, it is still critically important that USMX and ILA remain at the negotiation table to hammer out a final contract," said Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold in a statement.

"Until a final contract is ratified, America's retail community will remain concerned. NRF continues to urge both sides to negotiate in good faith to reach a firm and final deal for the good of the supply chain, and the good of the U.S. economy."