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Amid new disruptions, NRF urges Biden to intervene in West Coast labor negotiations

The ports and unions have been involved in contract negotiations over the past year.

As contract talks drag on, tensions are rising at West Coast ports.

Following a shutdown at the Ports of Oakland and Long Beach, which combine to form the country’s largest cargo complex, over the weekend, the National Retail Federation called on the Biden Administration to intervene. (At least one terminal at the Port of Long Beach shut Monday, according to reports.)

The new disruptions come as the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association have failed to reach and ratify a new labor agreement following more than a year of negotiations.

“The United States ports, particularly those on the West Coast, play a critical role in the vitality of the American economy,” said senior VP of government relations David French. “Thousands of retailers and other businesses depend on smooth and efficient operations at the ports to deliver goods to consumers every day.

As the industry enters the peak shipping season for the holidays, disruptions will force retailers and other important shipping partners to continue to shift cargo away from the West Coast ports until a new labor contract is established, French noted.

“It is imperative that the parties return to the negotiating table,” he said. “We urge the administration to mediate to ensure the parties quickly finalize a new contract without additional disruptions.”

The White House does not appear to be inclined to act — at least not yet. On Monday afternoon, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre called for all sides to reach a resolution in response to a question as to whether the administration might intervene in the contract talks.

“What we see as the best way to move forward is for both sides or for all sides to continue to work to come to the table and come to a solution here, and so that’s what we are going to continue to encourage,” she told reporters.

In April, NRF issued a statement after the ILWU made the decision to withhold labor at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, forcing the unexpected closure of all terminals.

Earlier this year, NRF organized a coalition letter to President Joe Biden that was signed by more than 230 associations, urging the administration to work with the parties to conclude their negotiations.

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