Not two sides to every story in the Bee

Submitted: Feb 13, 2015
Badlands Journal editorial board


This article is a curious excuse for journalism because, although Valley congressmen "pressure(s) both sides in ports dispute," only one side is given a line in the story:

On Thursday, citing the higher costs entailed by holiday and weekend wage rates, the Pacific Maritime Association said it would suspend vessel operations through Monday. The association’s leaders contend longshoremen have been engaged in deliberate work slowdowns.

The illustrious McClatchyCo. doesn't even mention it tried to contact the labor union on the other side of the dispute, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union ("also based in San Francisco").

Interesting. So, a labor union can bring the shippers (Pacific Maritime Assocation) to its knees and clog shipping on the entire West Coast and McClatchyCo doesn't even mention it tried to contact the union. I guess it feels such contact might damage its objectivity. -- blj





Modesto Bee

Congress pressures both sides in ports dispute


Congressional Republicans and Democrats are working together to reach a rapid resolution of a labor dispute that’s clogging West Coast ports.

With crop exports from regions such as the Pacific Northwest and California’s Central Valley particularly at risk, more than a dozen lawmakers united Thursday in support of port peace. If nothing else, the rare show of bipartisanship underscored the enduring importance of maritime trade.


“Nobody wins by the current situation, but everyone loses in this country by what’s going on,” said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield.

Technically, Congress has little direct role in the long-running contractual dispute pitting the Pacific Maritime Association against the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. The San Francisco-based association represents marine terminals and shipping companies. The union, also based in San Francisco, represents roughly 20,000 workers at 29 West Coast ports.

Politically, though, McCarthy and the 14 other lawmakers who joined him Thursday at a Capitol Hill news conference can command the bully pulpit, as well as the power of the spotlight.

“This is no longer a California problem. This is no longer a West Coast problem,” said Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock. “This affects our national economy, to the tune of about $2 billion a day, every day, our economy being hit. ... This must be solved now, before millions of jobs, billions of dollars and tons of perishable products are lost.”

The twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach alone handle about 40 percent of all imports coming into the United States. Starting last fall, for multiple reasons, some ships have had to wait offshore for days before they could reach the docks.

The congestion has been aggravated by the failure of the shipping companies and the longshoremen to settle a new labor contract to replace the last six-year agreement, which expired in July. The combined impacts have been growing in magnitude.

On Thursday, citing the higher costs entailed by holiday and weekend wage rates, the Pacific Maritime Association said it would suspend vessel operations through Monday. The association’s leaders contend longshoremen have been engaged in deliberate work slowdowns.

“We’ve seen in full glory the choke point that these ports have become for our economy,” said Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale.

By some estimates, U.S. agricultural exports through the West Coast ports have fallen by some 50 percent as a result of the ports’ slowdown. Fruit and vegetable producers are paying more for cold storage while awaiting shipment, and U.S. meat and poultry industry representatives estimate they’re losing at least $40 million a week.

Individual export-dependent companies, including the Hughson-based Alpine Pacific Nut Co. and Hilltop Ranch, based in Merced County, have been raising alarms with local lawmakers.

“We’re just battling this thing daily,” said John Mundt, owner of Alpine Pacific, which is holding enough walnuts in storage to fill about 60 shipping containers, each about 44,000 pounds. “It’s just a logistical nightmare. I wish these guys could get this thing figured out.”

Mundt said he has had some loads trucked to the port of Houston, adding about $2,300 to the cost compared with Oakland. He is concerned that some walnut buyers will cancel their orders.

“These dollars we’re missing out on have a real impact on our economy,” said Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford. “The little guys are the ones suffering the most.”

Republicans dominated the news conference Thursday, but for the most part they did not explicitly take sides in the labor dispute. Lawmakers, including Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, subsequently introduced a nonbinding resolution similarly urging both sides to reach an agreement so the ports can resume normal operations.

A federal mediator already has been brought in, and a bipartisan letter signed by more than 80 House members has previously been sent, with no visible effect, to the union and maritime association’s leadership. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack sought to assure a House panel this week that the Obama administration has likewise been reaching out to both sides.

Several lawmakers Thursday raised the possibility of the president invoking his powers under the Taft-Hartley Act to prevent strikes or lockouts that affect an entire industry or substantial portions of one.

<!--[if !supportLineBreakNewLine]-->


| »

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Copy the characters (respecting upper/lower case) from the image.

To manage site Login