LOS ANGELES — The International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association have agreed to extend their labor contract on a day-by-day basis during negotiations. So far, work has progressed uninterrupted.

The contract expired Monday.

Concerned parties, however, have been furiously lobbying Congress and the Bush administration. Late Monday, the ILWU released a letter sent to its president, James Spinosa, and to PMA president and ceo Joseph Miniace from 45 Democratic representatives. Among other things, the letter states the representatives are "disturbed by reports that the Pacific Maritime Association" is "manufacturing a ‘labor crisis’ and undermining the prospects for a contract settlement."

The PMA responded by reiterating its position that it "will not engage in an offensive lockout of the ILWU."

"If the union strikes with pay by staging slowdowns at the terminals, the PMA will be forced to consider a defensive shutdown," stated Miniace.

The National Retail Federation weighed in last Friday, calling on President Bush to "use the influence of his office to avoid a strike, slowdown or lockout."

The two-month-old talks are centered on the union’s pension and health benefits, issues of

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