Having the guts to use Taft-Hartley
August 27, 2012 - LM Editorial
As the GOP convenes in the port city of Tampa this week, the shipping community waits to see how the Obama Administration deals with a hurricane headed for New Orleans. Unfortunately, that is not the only storm threatening vital U.S. ocean cargo gateways.
Presidential leadership, too, will be sorely tested if organized labor makes good on its threat to shut down ports on the U.S. East and Gulf Coasts.
These ports handled 20.7 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) in 2011, or 48.5 percent of the total container traffic passing through U.S. ports. The largest port on the East Coast, the port of New York/New Jersey, handled 5.5 million TEU or 12.9 percent of U.S. volumes in 2011. According to Alphaliner data, the total weekly capacity of container services calling at U.S. East and Gulf Coast ports reaches over 287,000 TEU, of which the main Far East-U.S. East Coast routes account for 40 percent while the Europe-USEC routes account for 27 percent of the total container shipping capacity at these ports (excluding breakbulk services).
Shipping analysts also note that this crisis comes at a sensitive time – just five weeks before the U.S. presidential elections are due to take place on November 6.
Which begs the question: will President Obama have the courage to make a Taft-Hartley Act injunction, sending the the union workers back to work for an 80-day “cooling-off” period?
All bets are off.