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Reps. Newhouse, Reichert, Coffman, Radewagen Introduce PORTS Act

August 5, 2015
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Members of Congress Dan Newhouse (WA-4), Dave Reichert (WA-8), Mike Coffman (CO-6), and Amata Radewagen (AS) have introduced the Protecting Orderly and Responsible Transit of Shipment (PORTS) Act (H.R. 3433). The prolonged contract negotiations and slowdown of cargo handling at the West Coast ports late last year and earlier this year caused significant disruptions throughout the economy. Accordingly, it became evident that Congress must find a way to prevent this from happening again.

The Members of Congress said, “For our constituents who depend on trade, it is critical that we maintain the efficient movement of goods into and out of our ports. If we do not, our economy and our communities suffer just as they did during the most recent West Coast ports contract negotiations. The impact of these negotiations and the work slowdown that accompanied them was felt across the country: producers feared lost business, perishable products rotted or expired, manufacturers faced delays, and retailers worried about stocking their shelves. While the parties ultimately came to an agreement and concluded the contract negotiations, the process took far too long and the damage to the rest of our economy far too great. The update to the Taft-Hartley Act and a study on the slowdown called for in the act will help to ensure that future negotiations cannot cause such harm to our businesses, growers, manufacturers, and producers across the nation.”

The companion piece to the PORTS Act was introduced in the Senate by Senator Cory Gardner (CO).  The Senator stated, “I’m pleased to see the PORTS Act introduced in the House, and I commend Reps. Reichert, Coffman, Newhouse, and Radewagen for their leadership on this important issue. This legislation recognizes the tremendous benefits of trade, and paves the way for local leaders to prevent and mitigate damaging disputes at our ports – protecting American businesses, consumers, and our economy.”

The Taft-Hartley Act currently allows the president to intervene when there is a “threatened or actual strike or lockout affecting an entire industry…[which] will, if permitted to occur or to continue, imperil the national health or safety.”  The PORTS Act clarifies current law to ensure the president can intervene to protect the economy in the case of a slowdown. The bill would also allow governors to appoint boards of inquiry under Taft-Hartley as well as petition a court of jurisdiction to intervene in the case of a slowdown, strike, or lockout. The final piece of the legislation calls for a study on the recent West Coast ports slowdown in order to understand its impact and prevent future occurrences. The full text of the legislation can be found here.

From May of 2014 through February of 2015, the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) negotiated a multi-year contract covering the 29 West Coast container ports and the longshore, clerk, and foreman workers who are employed at these ports. On May 20th and 22nd, the respective parties each ratified the agreement reached in February. According to the Federal Reserve, exports from West Coast ports dropped by 20.5% in the first quarter of 2015.