the film


Commentaries and editorials

Proposal Seeks to Keep Ports
Open During Labor Disputes

by Staff
Capital Press, October 6, 2015

Washington Rep. Dan Newhouse is working on a second bill to prevent
strikes and slowdowns at seaports from disrupting the economy.

A Cowlitz County Sheriff grabs a union worker by the throat as police move in on several hundred union workers blocking a grain train in Longview, Wash., Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011 PASCO, Wash. -- A bill setting up automatic triggers to start the Taft-Hartley Act process in the event of future labor or management disruptions at U.S. ports is being proposed by Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash.

Newhouse announced his Ensuring Continued Operations and No Other Major Incidents, Closures or Slowdowns (ECONOMICS) Act at Easterday Farms in Pasco on Oct. 5. Easterday, a family potato farm and packing operation, is one of thousands of farms throughout the West that were impacted by the slowdown of cargo at 29 West Coast ports from May 2014 through February 2015.

It was caused by contentious contract negotiations between the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.

Newhouse was joined for his announcement by Washington Farm Bureau President Mike LaPlant and Matt Harris, assistant executive director of the Washington State Potato Commission.

The bill would mandate mediation in labor disputes and require a board of inquiry be convened when certain economic triggers are met. The board would be required to report to the president and the public to recommend whether a Taft-Hartley judicial injunction should be sought to order an end to a dispute. The president or state governors would still have to seek the injunction.

The triggers are:

Any single trigger could start the process, but the bill is still in draft stage and Newhouse is seeking feedback for improvements, he told Capital Press. He said he hopes to introduce the bill within a couple of months.

The definition of strike would be broadened throughout U.S. labor law to include slowdowns, lockouts or threatened strikes or lockouts. A board of inquiry could be triggered for any of those.

The bill is meant to complement HR3398, the Protecting Orderly and Responsible Transit of Shipment (PORTS) Act, authored by Newhouse and Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash. The PORTS Act, and a companion measure in the Senate, would allow governors of seaport states and territories to invoke the Taft-Hartley Act to order dock workers to work. The PORTS Act includes slowdowns, not just strikes or lockouts, in the Taft-Hartley process.

"There is a lot of interest in preventing the kind of economic losses we experienced this past season," Newhouse said. "We still haven't regained (the markets of) some of the commodities that were lost so it's still costing producers today."

The slowdown cost up to $2.5 billion per day and contributed to an anemic 0.2 percent annualized growth rate in the first quarter of 2015, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said in introducing a bill last May that would set up an early warning system of abnormal port operations.

Exports and imports of many commodities through the West Coast were impacted by last year's slowdown. The Washington apple industry lost $100 million in sales, according to the Northwest Horticultural Council.

Total agricultural exports of fruits, vegetables and meats totaled almost $400 million per week last December, according to the U.S. Agriculture Transportation Coalition. West Coast exports dropped 20.5 percent in the first quarter of 2015, according to the Federal Reserve.

"Two parties should not be able to hold a whole economy hostage," Newhouse said. "I am trying to keep a sense of urgency in Congress to avoid this happening in the future."

Proposal Seeks to Keep Ports Open During Labor Disputes
Capital Press, October 6, 2015

See what you can learn

learn more on topics covered in the film
see the video
read the script
learn the songs
discussion forum
salmon animation