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Dock workers ready to strike at U.S. ports

Market Watch – by Kate Gibson

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) — Dock workers are readying to strike next weekend along the East and Gulf Coasts in a labor dispute that threatens shipments of retail goods, food and components used in manufacturing.

Negotiations broke down on Tuesday between the International Longshoremen’s Association, or ILA, which represents about 15,000 dock workers, and the U.S. Maritime Alliance Ltd., or USMX, which represents management at 14 ports from Boston to Houston.

In a Wednesday notice to local unions posted on its website, the union said contract talks were “not progressing well” and a strike was expected to begin Sunday, Dec. 30.

Union members would not move containerized cargo including clothing, frozen foods and household goods, but would handle mail, military cargo and some perishables, ILA President Harold Daggett, wrote in the notice.

There is “nothing new to report,” James McNamara, a spokesman for the ILA, AFL-CIO, said Sunday in an email.

Central to the dispute are so-called container royalty fees, or levies on cargo that supplement wages, with employers looking to cap the payments and the union declaring them to be off limits.

The union said its offer to extend the deadline of the current contract through the end of January 2013 had been rejected.

On Friday, the USMX said the union’s strike authorization poised “serious consequences for the nation’s economy,” saying a 10-day lockout at West Coast ports 10 years ago cost the U.S. economy an estimated $1 billion a day.

The National Retail Federation also voiced concerns, urging President Barack Obama in a letter this week to use all options available to him, “including the authority under the Taft-Hartley Act, to keep the parties at the negotiating table.”

http://articles.marketwatch.com/2012-12-23/economy/35978885_1_ila-president-harold-daggett-dock-workers-strike-authorization

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