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June29, 2015

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GOVERNMENT WATCH INTERNATIONAL | WASHINGTON | CUSTOMS | SECURITY | REGULATION www.joc.com THE JOURNAL OF COMMERCE 17 By Joseph Bonney A MONTH AFTER the latest round of port disruption related to labor slowdowns ended, two senators have introduced a bill that would empower the president to intervene to halt strikes and other protests while allowing state governors to initi- ate the process for federal back-to-work injunctions. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., and Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., are sponsor- ing the Protecting Orderly and Responsible Transit of Shipments Act in reaction to labor slowdowns that paralyzed West Coast ports during longshore contract negotiations in late 2014 and early 2015. "Labor union bosses should not be allowed to hold the economy hostage, nor should they be allowed to use the livelihoods and jobs of millions of Americans as bar- gaining chips," Gardner said in a statement. Although the bill is considered a long shot for passage, it's a sign of lingering anger at the International Longshore and Warehouse Union for its role in West Coast gridlock that affected supply chains nationwide and helped hold first-quarter GDP growth to an anemic 0.2 percent. Dozens of business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Retail Federation, the Retail Industry Lead- ers Association, the National Association of Manufacturers and the Agriculture Trans- portation Coalition, are supporting the bill. Gardner in May also co-sponsored a bill with Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., that directs the Department of Transportation to pro- vide Congress with annual statistics on port productivity. There also have been calls to place longshore unions under the Railway Labor Act, which covers the rail and airline industries. As congestion backed up cargo and forced dozens of container ships to anchor outside Los Angeles-Long Beach during slowdowns tied to the ILWU talks last fall and winter, business groups criticized President Obama for not invoking the Taft- Hartley Act and launching its multistep process for a back-to-work injunction to halt strikes or lockouts. Although the ILWU didn't call a strike, its slowed productivity was criticized as tantamount to one. Gardner's bill would expand Taft-Hart- ley to cover slowdowns as well as strikes and lockouts. It also would allow governors of port states to direct their attorney general to use the act to seek a federal court injunc- tion against slowdowns, strikes or lockouts. "This legislation will empower state governors to take steps to resolve port labor disputes and avoid economic disaster if the president is unwilling to act," Alexander said in a statement. The bill would allow a governor to request a board of inquiry, starting the pro- cess for a Taft-Hartley injunction. If the president did not act to start that process within 10 days, the governor could unilat- erally appoint a board to start the process. In a statement accompanying his legis- lation, Gardner said the provision "allows those most affected by the disruptions (local community leaders and constituent business, LEGISLATING A PORT FIX? A Senate bill would allow the president and state governors to act against port slowdowns Sheila Fitzgerald / Shutterstock.com

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