WASHINGTON — The standoff between West Coast dock workers and shippers that has idled ports turned ugly Tuesday, as desperate retailers made pleas to the White House to intervene in the labor dispute that’s threatening the U.S. economy,...
WASHINGTON — The standoff between West Coast dock workers and shippers that has idled ports turned ugly Tuesday, as desperate retailers made pleas to the White House to intervene in the labor dispute that’s threatening the U.S. economy, including critical holiday season cargo.
The prospect of a negotiated settlement was quickly dashed in the morning, when both sides showed up for a meeting at the Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service in Oakland. But International Longshore & Warehouse Union officials stormed out because they said officials from the shippers’ Pacific Maritime Association brought armed guards.
ILWU president James Spinosa in a statement said the incident is PMA’s way of "holding a gun to the head of the American economy…Now they move to aim real guns at us….We will never reach an agreement as long as the PMA acts as if it can force a settlement at gunpoint."
In its response, PMA referred obliquely to "unfortunate reasons" it needs to employ a security detail for its lead negotiator. PMA president Joseph Miniace, who "was not aware that the security detail had remained on the floor after escorting him to the place where the meeting was set to take place," a PMA statement read.
On Monday, the PMA had agreed to let the federal agency help settle the contract dispute, but the 10,500-member ILWU balked, although they later agreed to Tuesday’s meeting. Negotiations were set to start Thursday in Washington over the disputed issues, including how new technology might displace workers, but that has now been thrown into question.
Meanwhile, anxious retailers turned to Washington for help, pleading directly to the White House, while urging members of Congress to press President Bush to intervene. At Bush’s disposal is the Taft-Hartley Act that allows him to call for a 90-day cooling off period, which would trigger the reopening of the 29 West Coast ports.
However, Bush told reporters he’s not inclined to immediately jump into the fray.
"I urge both parties to use the mediator," Bush said. "We’re just going to have to get these parties to work through it, get back to work, open these ports up. It’s important for our economy to do so."But retailers want presidential action now. Tracy Mullin, president of the National Retail Federation, wrote Bush Tuesday asking for his "immediate action to reopen the ports."
"We cannot overstate the gravity of the current situation," Mullin wrote. "The West Coast ports handle a substantial portion of the nation’s trade, which accounts for one-quarter of U.S. gross domestic product. Their closure will deliver a serious blow to the U.S. economy, estimated at $1 billion a day.
"Retail operations work in a just-in-time environment. With the retail industry and consumer spending largely propping up a weak economy, the inability to get goods off the ships will quickly result in idling of distribution centers, closure of stores and layoffs of workers. U.S. consumers will also quickly see an impact as goods become unavailable and prices rise."
The ports have been idle since Sunday, when shippers locked out dock workers after several weeks of stalemate and work slowdowns by the ILWU. Cargo is backed up on the dock and full ships are unable to unload.
At the International Mass Retail Association, officials from member stores, including Wal-Mart, held a conference call in the late afternoon to strategize. During the day, IMRA members called and wrote Capitol Hill lawmakers and the White House asking for help in ending the stalemate.
"It’s getting to be an urgent situation," an IMRA spokeswoman said.
On Capitol Hill, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.), said the President should intervene if matters don’t improve soon. The President invoking a cooling off period would be a "viable option" Feinstein said, "if there is not progress within the next week."
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D., Wash.), said her state’s economy is already hurting from the idle ports and that the President might have to act.
"All options should be on the table because, frankly, so much is at stake," said Cantwell, noting that the President "is going to hear from economic interest across the West Coast that something has got to be done."
Robin Lanier, executive director of the West Coast Waterfront Coalition, with Gap Inc., Wal-Mart and Target among its members, questioned whether the ILWU’s balking at mediation is simply a contract maneuver."They just want to flex their muscle, but they should do what they did in July and extend the contract on a day-to-day basis until they go back to the table," Lanier said.
EXCLUSIVE: @tomford is opening its first-ever beauty store. The boutique, which opens November 20 in London’s Covent Gardens, was designed with the over-the-top glam Ford is known for. Read the full story on WWD.com, link in bio. #wwdbeauty #wwdnews (📷: Simon Wagner) #TomFordBeauty
New York-based DJ @harleyvnewton threw a party to celebrate the holiday collection of her dress and pajama line @hvn at the Ladurée Beverly Hills. It Girls @katebosworth, @rashidajones and more joined in on the fun, which included cocktails, croque monsieur sandwiches and a photo booth. #wwdfashion (📷: Owen Kolasinski/BFA.com)
For the holidays, @Burberry partnered with 20-year-old artist @blondeymccoy on a series of three outdoor murals in downtown Manhattan. The murals are McCoy’s interpretation of a Christmas eve party, the idea of charity and the spirit of family. His third mural, pictured here, is the most personal. The image depicts McCoy’s grandparents and father in London’s Trafalgar Square in the Seventies. “My work often features lots of sentimental objects.” #wwdeye
For spring 2018, designers applied bold colors and cartoonish motifs on everything from sneakers and belts to key chains. See all the top men’s accessories trends on WWD.com. #wwdtrends (📷: George Chinsee; Prop Styling by @rnasti; Market Editor: @luiscampuzano)
The @dior-sponsored @guggenheim international gala pre-party has a history of drawing cool-girl musical acts to serenade the crowd –– and last night was no exception. @haimtheband performed songs both new and old, and lured a star-studded audience with the likes of Rebecca Hall, Kate Mara, Mamoudou Athie and more. #wwdeye (📷: @lexieblacklock)
In a partnership between the @metopera and the @englishnationalopera, “Marnie” was born. The opera, with costumes sponsored by @mrporterlive, is an adaptation of the 1961 thriller by Winston Graham. Arianne Phillips, who created the costumes, is no rookie: She’s styled Madonna for her tours and created costumes for a myriad of films in the past. Read WWD’s interview with Phillips, where she talks about her inspiration for the opera’s costumes on WWD.com #wwdfashion
@barneysnyc took a different approach to their holiday windows this year. Instead of Christmas decor, Barneys tapped @thehaasbrothers to tell a story of positivity, gratitude and inclusivity via heartwarming silliness and humor. “It’s about kids and it’s about coming together and being family and loving each other,” said Simon Haas. #wwdfashion (📷: @joshuascottphoto)
Beauty influencer @kandeejohnson makes her foray into hair care with a collaboration with @ogx_beauty — making it the first time that OGX has teamed up for a product creation. The collab includes shampoos and conditioners in three scents. At 39 and a mom, Johnson is a different profile than the emerging social media stars, but is considered one of the pioneers of the digital beauty influencer world. Read WWD’s interview with her on wwd.com, including the strangest beauty product she’s ever tried #wwdbeauty