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Public Policy

Port shut down impacts retailers nationwide

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With union members still walking picket lines, NRF is stepping up efforts to convince President Obama to intervene in a strike that has closed most terminals at the nation’s largest port complex in the middle of retail’s busy holiday season.

“The shutdown is already having a significant negative economic impact on retailers trying to bring in merchandise for their final push for holiday sales and will soon have an impact on consumers,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement issued to media on Monday.

“This strike is now at the national emergency stage impacting industries far and wide," Shay said. " ‘Urging’ both sides toward a solution is not the answer. The Obama Administration needs to show leadership and resolve to get the ports operational again and prevent any further economic damage.”

Shay’s statement was a follow-up to a letter NRF sent to Obama last week urging him to step in and warning that a prolonged strike could have “a devastating impact on the U.S. economy.” If the strike continues, Obama has authority under the Taft-Hartley Act to order the union back to work.

Today, NRF and nearly 100 trade associations ranging from farmers to manufacturers to retailers sent a joint letter to Obama asking him to take action and emphasizing the wide range of industries affected by the shutdown. Both sides agreed this afternoon to meet with a federal mediator, but picket lines remained in place and NRF continued to urge Obama to step in.

The strike is making national news with CBS, Fox, National Public Radio, Reuters, Bloomberg, USA Today, the Financial Times, the Los Angeles Times, and The Hill, among others, covering it.

“The ports are essentially shut down,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold told Fox host Neil Cavuto. “While the majority of holiday merchandise has already arrived in the United States right now retailers are making the last big push to get the hot holiday merchandise to their stores. Right now they’re stuck at the ports or struck on ships that are out at sea.”

NRF has been in continual contact with port management and retailers to assess the impact of the work stoppage, and has conducted daily conference calls with retailers since the strike began.

Clerical workers from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union walked off the job in Los Angeles last Tuesday in a dispute over job security and the strike quickly spread to 10 of the 14 terminals at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Longshoremen refused to cross the picket lines, shutting down operations at the affected terminals.

A 10-day lockout at West Coast ports in 2002 led to supply chain disruptions that lingered for six months and cost the economy $1 billion for each day the ports were closed.