PORTS Act Designed to Prevent Future Transit Crises

6/5/2015
Less than two weeks after West Coast ports management and labor reached a final agreement, the Senate introduced a new bill aimed to prevent future port disruptions. The Protecting Orderly and Responsible Transit of Shipments (PORTS) Act, was welcomed by the American Apparel & Footwear Association, which represents apparel and footwear brands affected by the ports crisis.

"The port-labor system needs reform," said Juanita D. Duggan, president and CEO of AAFA. "As an industry deeply impacted by the port slowdown on the West Coast, we support legislation like PORTS - legislation that puts forth a solution to make sure another West Coast ports crisis never happens again."

The bill, introduced by Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), would amend the Taft-Hartley law to allow port-state governors to invoke the Taft-Hartley process, which forces both sides to get back to the negotiating table and back to work. The bill would add 'slow-downs' to the definition of a 'trigger' under Taft-Hartley.

Currently, only the President of the United States can invoke Taft-Hartley, and only strikes or lock-outs can trigger the action. "Slow-downs," or the deliberate slowdown of work at the ports, effectively brings port operations to a stop. Slow-downs were a major contributor to the backlog created during the nine month labor dispute on the West Coast.

More than half of the shoes and clothes sold in the United States come through the 29 West Coast ports. The near halt of these ports became the industry's number one trade barrier. The inability to receive shipments cost member companies millions of dollars in missed deliveries and forced them to resort to costly contingency plans.

"While we are glad to see an end to the most recent port crisis, the issue at the ports is not over until policymakers address systemic issues, a major one being how labor negotiations are resolved," Duggan said.

The five-year retroactive contract on the West Coast expires in 2019, and an East Coast ports labor agreement expires in 2018.
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