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L.A. port strike ends; Eastern strike looms

Published December 5, 2012

LONG BEACH, CA (BRAIN) — Negotiators on Tuesday reached an agreement to end a week-old strike at the Los Angeles and Long Beach, California, ports. The strike's afteraffects will continue to cause delays and cost increases for shippers in the West for a few weeks. Meanwhile, negotiations continue to avert a port strike on the East Coast, where an extended contract expires at year's end.

The California strike ended when negotiators agreed to a six-year contract for the 600 Office Clerical Unit of International Longshore and Warehouse Unit Local 63. Union members still needed to vote on the agreement but returned to work Wednesday.

Prior to the agreement, the National Retail Federation and other groups sent a letter to President Obama urging him to step in to bring the strike to end. The letter said that "if labor returned to work today, it would take several weeks to undo the gridlock this disruption has already set in motion." Ships remain backed up in harbors and truckers are hustling to handle cargo after it is unloaded.

On the East Coast, negotiators in September agreed to a 90-day contract extention that pushed the negotiations until after the presidential election and the holidays. Negotiators for the Longshoreman's union and the Maritime Alliance continue to meet to try to find an agreement before the Dec. 29 contract expiration.

The outdoor products industry has been closely watching both disputes, said Alex Boian, director of trade policy for the Outdoor Industry Association.

"L.A. and Long Beach are two of the largest ports and the major ports for outdoor products, so there was a lot of concern," he said. With that strike aparently averted, attention turns to the East Coast, where the strike could close ports from the Gulf Coast to Maine and in the Great Lakes.

"That would be huge. The sheer affect of a strike that large would affect everyone," Boian said.

In September prior to the contract extension, shippers were set to slap a $1,000-per-container fee at all North American ports during a strike, so even suppliers bringing in products to the West Coast would have seen increased costs and, likely, shipping delays across the country.

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