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Port strike could stagger U.S. exporters

President George W. Bush had to invoke Taft-Hartley ten years ago to get the parties back to the negotiating table, but by then much of the damage to U.S. shippers had already been done.
By Patrick Burnson, Executive Editor
September 13, 2012

The long term implications of a strike at U.S. ports – no matter how short-lived – can be severe. As we reported in today’s news, the Agriculture Transportation Coalition is reminding ag and forest products exporters to recall when the closure of U.S. West Coast was caused by a failure to negotiate a new labor/management contract ten years ago.

President George W. Bush had to invoke Taft-Hartley, to get the parties back to the negotiating table, but by then much of the damage to U.S. shippers had already been done.

The AgTC observes that cargoes had to be destroyed as refrigerated ocean containers sat at the docks. Meanwhile, financing instruments expired before the cargo could begin transit, as supply chains for ag exports backed up all the way to heartland states. Dairy, beef, pork, and grain production were disrupted and shut down.

Even when that labor dispute was settled, it took months for the supply chain to be fully restored, said the AgTC.

“The injury has been felt for years since,” it said.

For example, when confectioners in Japan could not get the superior California nuts and raisins, they were forced to work with growers in Turkey and elsewhere in the world. Some of that business never returned.

East Coast shippers may face the same situation with their commodities, said the AgTC. The threat this poses to our economic recover is real and needs to be addressed.

About the Author

Patrick Burnson
Executive Editor

Patrick Burnson is executive editor for Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management Review magazines and web sites. Patrick is a widely-published writer and editor who has spent most of his career covering international trade, global logistics, and supply chain management. He lives and works in San Francisco, providing readers with a Pacific Rim perspective on industry trends and forecasts. You can reach him directly at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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