Retailers forecast 8.5 percent importing increase after East Coast port labor deal

NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said the importing figures since the East Coast port deal showed the need for a resolution to the West Coast labor issues as well. 

“We were very happy to see a deal on a tentative contract for the East Coast and Gulf Coast ports but we are urging the parties to quickly work out any outstanding issues and ratify the agreement as soon as possible,” Gold said in a statement.

“We need a long-term labor contract in place to give retailers and the other industries that depend on the ports confidence that cargo will continue flowing," Gold continued. "We were disappointed that the LA/Long Beach clerical workers’ contract wasn’t ratified, but are encouraging the parties to work through their differences without a disruption.”

The agreement on a new labor contract for East and Gulf Coast ports was negotiated by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) in December. The deal helped prevented a work stoppage at 14 ports that retail groups like the NRF said would have crippled the U.S. economy. 

A similar FMCS effort for the West Coast ports hit a snag this week after the unions that are representing southern California dockworkers voted against a proposed agreement with Los Angeles and Long Beach, Calif., harbor managers. 

The unions, which are local affiliates of the AFL-CIO-affiliated International Longshoremen and Warehouse Union (ILWU), are negotiating with the Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbor Employers Association, which represents port managers in southern California.

The last breakdown in negotiations between the ILWU and the Harbor Employers Association resulted in a week-long strike port that officials say closed 10 of 14 terminals at the southern California ports.