More labor unrest at main East Coast port?

10/12/2010
NEWARK, N.J. – A two-day strike last month at the East Coast’s largest freight terminals sent shippers a message and could be a sign of things to come.

According to the Journal of Commerce, importers are concerned over growing militancy at the Port of New York-New Jersey after 30 years of relative labor peace.

At the cusp of the peak shipping season in late September, Longshormen defied their union and a court order and staged a two-day wildcat strike at the ports of Newark, Port Elizabeth, Staten Island and South Philadelphia.

The shutdown halted as many as 11,000 truck moves and caught the attention of the nation’s largest retailers at the busiest time of their year.

Now the International Longshoremen’s Association is about to elect a new president who is regarded as more confrontational, reports JOC. The election is expected to coincide with the start of contract negotiations.

“We are definitely monitoring [labor relations] more closely now so that we will have options in case of a shutdown,” said Goya Foods’ Matthew Montour. “Over the past years it hasn’t even been an issue, so we haven’t had to consider an option.”

In a press release, the JOC notes that historically problematic West Coast labor relations pushed many shippers to diversify supply chains, bringing more goods east.

If the unrest begins plaguing East Coast ports as well, shippers may be forced to reconsider their bicoastal strategies and overall global supply chain planning.

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