WSWA calls for presidential action to stop ports strike

The Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) has joined a coalition of 107 organisations calling for President Obama to take action to prevent a strike at ports spanning the coast from Houston to Boston.

The coalition includes groups whose member firms rely on free and steady movement of goods through US ports.

The WSWA, which represents wholesale tier of the wine and spirits industry with more than 350 member companies across all 50 states, says talks between the longshoremen’s union and an alliance of shippers broke down December 18 and reports indicate strike preparations are underway for Gulf and East Coast ports. Absent action by December 29, the date when the current labour agreement expires, a strike is expected impacting port and related activity in as many as 18 states.

“We applaud the parties for agreeing to use a federal mediator over the last several months. However, even with the mediator there has been very little progress. Failure to reach an agreement resulting in a coast wide shutdown will have serious economy-wide impacts,” the coalition wrote in its December 20 letter to the President.

The coalition noted that especially in the Northeast, residents and businesses still face a long recovery from the effects of Superstorm Sandy. They pointed out that a port strike or shutdown will only add to the economic devastation already felt in the region, and also said that even the threat of a strike has created serious economic uncertainty. The coalition letter reported that the West Coast port lockout a decade ago cost the US economy $1 billion per day and required six months for businesses and ports to fully recover.

WSWA president and CEO Craig Wolf said: “American jobs depend on the predictable and well-managed flow of goods through US ports to businesses and consumers. WSWA members and our coalition partners believe that both parties can reach agreement over these issues—and that President Obama and his administration should take all appropriate action to ensure the movement of goods without disruption to our economy and impact on jobs.”

The association’s letter said: “We need to ensure that a shutdown does not occur which would impact hundreds of thousands of downstream customers and businesses who rely on the ports for their success.”