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.
London’s newly opened @designmuseum will look back on the life and work of Azzedine Alaïa in a show that the designer helped to curate before he died of heart failure last month. The retrospective, which Alaïa had worked on with Mark Wilson, chief curator of the @groningermuseum, will look at the impact of his work worldwide. The show, “Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier,” will run from May 10 to October 7. Read more about the exhibit on WWD.com #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @zefashioninsider)
@Pharrell and his wife Helen Lasichanh were among the stars that came out to celebrate @rimowa’s first pop-up concept shop. The space, which is located on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, draws inspiration from airport luggage carousels and lounge areas – and features the company’s luggage and accessories. If the pop-up is successful it could pave the way for addition temporary shops throughout the world. #wwdfashion (📷: Owen Kolasinski/BFA)
@carineroitfeld celebrated @crfashionbook’s first calendar last night with a dinner party at Spring Place in Manhattan. Photographed by @stevenkleinstudio, the calendar takes on a fitness theme and features @joansmalls, @gigihadid, @danielle_herrington_ – pictured here – and more. “[Carine Roitfeld] wanted me to feel sexy and she wanted me to be myself and feel it out on my own and do what I felt was right,” said Herrington, aka Miss October. #wwdeye
@saintrecords and @virgilabloh last night at @americanexpress’ “A Night With Success Makers” event. “I always bring it back to community because without that I wouldn’t have the courage,” said Knowles when asked how she has gotten where she is now. Read more highlights from their conversation on WWD.com. #wwdeye (📷: @lizdoupnik)
This Just In: Industry sources have told WWD that Anastasia Soare is rumored to be considering selling her beauty business, @anastasiabeverlyhills. According to those sources, Soare has tapped investment bank Imperial Capital to explore sale options for her eponymous beauty brand –– and with at least $340 million in net sales, this would be a big deal. Put in context of other recent transactions for makeup companies, Soare’s price tag could be in the billions if she were to sell the whole thing. #wwdnews #wwdbeauty (📷: @clint_spaulding)
@assouline’s latest book, “The Spirit of Bentley: Be Extraordinary” captures the adventurous attitudes and opulent lifestyles of @bentleymotors’ most creative owners and enthusiasts throughout the U.K. The 292-page hardcover has a section dedicated to showing its team of skilled artisans and photos of its most colorful owners, from George Bamford to designer @alicetemperley, pictured here by Aline Coquelle. #wwdeye
@google released its report on the most popular search terms this year. For fashion brands, the list was led by @gucci, the luxury brand that stunned the market last October when it pledged to stop using fur. Runner ups were @supremenewyork and @fashionnova, along with more established brands like @louisvuitton, @chanelofficial and @ysl. #wwdfashion (📷: @aitorrosasphoto)
In yet another fashion show shuffle, @elleryland is moving its show in sync with the Paris couture calendar — though the brand is still keeping one foot on the city’s ready-to-wear schedule. Their runway show in January will coincide with the launch of a new strategy: designing two main collections each year instead of four, which will then be released in four drops. “As we all know, the system needs to change. We need to show sooner to give time back to artisans and designers to do what they do best — create,” said founder Kym Ellery. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @kukukuba)
@maxmara’s classic 101801 coat was the cornerstone of its pre-fall 2018 collection. The design team expanded the traditional double-breasted, kimono-sleeved style into a trapeze coat, lean belted styles and a peacoat and presented them in monochromatic looks – like the camel one pictured here. #wwdfashion #prefall18 (📷: George Chinsee)