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Newsflash: West Coast senators ask dockworkers and employers to reach settlement

The congressmen urge a labor settlement between the ILWU and the PMA, while shippers start petition to White House.

The letter, which was sent to ILWU President Robert McEllrath and PMA President and Chief Executive Officer James C. McKenna, was signed by Democrats Dianne Feinstein, and Barbara Boxer of California; Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden of Oregon; and Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell of Washington. They wrote that an “agreement is imperative to the health of the West Coast economy and to the nation’s as a whole.”

A new contract is “important for the health, safety and economic well-being of the 13,600 longshore, clerk and foreman workers at 29 ports from California to Washington, as well as for companies large and small, agriculture producers, ports, and international buyers around the world,” the senators wrote. Members of Congress were copied last week in a letter that 105 trade organizations sent to President Obama urging that the federal government get involved in the contract negotiations.   The two sides have held talks since May, but have yet to approve a final agreement on a contract that expired on July 1.

Meanwhile, a petition on the White House website asking President Obama to get involved in ending congestion at West Coast ports has gained more than 650 signatures in recent days.  “Make sure the holidays come on time by unblocking West Coast port congestion,” the petition reads. “Absent presidential leadership now, the situation will get worse just as t1401970999_justin-bieber-lghe holiday season approaches. If we can’t break the jam, hundreds of millions of dollars of goods won’t be delivered in time for the holidays. That means lost sales, lost jobs and lost opportunities for millions of Americans this holiday season. That’s NOT what our economy needs.”

The petition was started by of Steve Lamar, an executive vice president of the American Apparel and Footwear Association, in a section of the website where citizens petition Obama to do everything from vetoing the Keystone XL pipeline if it is approved by Congress to deporting the Canadian singer Justin Bieber.   The footwear group was one of the 105 groups that signed the letter to Obama, and Lamar said he sees the petition as just another way to reach the president.

The White House says it will respond to petitions that garner 100,000 signatures, and while that may seem unlikely, Lamar sees it as another way of publicizing the concerns of shippers.   Not that a petitioner’s goals will be realized. The Bieber petition has gained 273,968 signatures and the White House response was: “Sorry to disappoint, but we won’t be commenting on this one.” It added, “We’ll leave it to others to comment on Mr. Bieber’s case, but we’re glad you care about immigration issues.”