Slow movement of billions of dollars’ worth of goods has prompted federal officials to step in to stalled contract talks between West Coast dockworkers and their employers. The U.S. Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service named deputy director Scot Beckenbaugh to assist in bringing both sides of the contentious debate to the negotiating table. At issue are wages and work rules.
The ports from San Diego to Seattle handled $892 billion in imports and exports during 2013, according to U.S. trade data. Cargo volume, including everything from Japanese cars to Chinese electronics has been heavy as the economy has improved, and due to a range of problems, that cargo is having a hard time getting where it needs to go efficiently.
ABC news reports that while the development does not represent an immediate return to normalcy, “a mediator has proven pivotal in past contract disputes.”
Members of International Longshore and Warehouse Union have been working without a contract since July 1. Though there has been progress in talks on health care benefits with their employers, represented by the Pacific Maritime Association, other issues remain unresolved. Both sides have traded public criticisms in recent months, with the maritime association asking for federal help, and the union agreeing to the mediation just this month.