If the more than 10,000 workers represented by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union go on strike at West Coast ports, the Bush administration says it could block the strike and even call out U.S. troops to keep cargo moving.
According to the Associated Press, the administration is considering several options to prevent a potential economic crisis. A special task force has been formed to explore federal intervention and other options for dealing with the situation.
Not only could a strike at the American’s 29 major West Coast ports prompt an economic crisis, it also would mean no work for the independent contractor truckers who haul intermodal containers in and out of the ports.
The ILWU has been working without a contract since July 1. The union is still in negotiations with the Pacific Maritime Assn., but so far there has been little progress.
The AP says the most likely option would be for the president to declare a national economic emergency, forcing a strike delay for 80 days. The last time that happened was 1978, when President Carter unsuccessfully tried to end a national coal strike.
Other options include running the ports with Navy personnel or pushing legislation that would weaken the union’s ability to strike, should a slowdown or walkout occur.
Union officials had harsh words for the Department of Labor’s actions, saying the department is supposed to protect workers but is instead interfering in negotiations. “What we have is a Department of Labor whose attorney wants to overthrow the National Labor Relations Act, the very law he’s supposed to be enforcing,” union spokesman Steve Stallone told the AP.