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Will ports stay open? AAIA urges action

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The Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA) joined 107 local, state and national trade associations expressing concern over a potential East and Gulf Coast port strike.

In a letter to President Barack Obama, the groups urged immediate action by the White House to ensure that the lack of progress in ongoing labor contract negotiations between the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) and the U.S. Maritime Alliance, LTD (USMX) does not result in a strike.

(The latest talks between the parties broke down Dec. 18, 2012, less than two weeks before the current contract expires on Dec. 29.)

The coalition undersigning the letter was comprised of associations representing United States manufacturers, farmers, wholesalers, retailers, importers and transportation and logistics providers.

“As imports are a large and critical portion of the automotive aftermarket, a port strike threatens our industry’s supply chain and could cause serious economic harm to many of our members and their customers,” says Kathleen Schmatz, AAIA CEO and president. “We urge the president to take any action necessary to avert a strike and ensure the continued competitiveness of our industry.”

In the letter, the undersigned believe the issues will only be resolved if both parties remain at the negotiating table until a deal is reached.

"We  applaud the parties for agreeing to use a federal mediator over the last several months. However, even with the mediator there has been very little progress. Failure to reach an agreement resulting in a coast wide shutdown will have serious economy-wide impacts.

"The region, particularly the Northeast, is still recovering from the tragic effects of
superstorm Sandy. A port strike or other shutdown will only add to the economic devastation already felt by the region. Just the threat of a shutdown impacting the East Coast and Gulf Coast ports creates a level of uncertainty in a fragile economic climate which has forced many businesses to once again enact contingency plans that come at a significant cost to jobs and our economic competitiveness.

"The West Coast lockout 10 years ago cost the U.S. economy $1 billion a day and took
over six months to recover from. The East Coast and Gulf Coast ports and their customers cannot afford a similar situation."

To read the letter in its entirety, and to view the list of participating associations and Congressmen, click here.

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