By Jeff Mason and Kanishka Singh
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden has urged both sides in the West Coast ports labor dispute to continue collective bargaining, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Wednesday, adding acting Labor Secretary Julie Su was actively engaging with the parties.
The largest terminal at Southern California’s Port of Long Beach closed for the day shift Monday as dock workers rallied for better pay. Monday’s temporary closure followed similar disruptions on Friday in Oakland, California. More than 22,000 dockworkers at ports stretching from California to Washington state have been working without a contract since July.
The West Coast is home to the busiest U.S. container port complex at Los Angeles/Long Beach. Pacific Coast ports are an important engine of the U.S. economy and handle everything from apparel and furniture to agricultural products and automobiles.
“I can say that the President respects the collective bargaining process as the best way to hold workers and employers to reach mutually beneficial solutions,” the White House spokesperson told reporters in a press briefing.
“The path forward is for the port workers and their employers to resolve the negotiations so that workers get the wages and quality of life that they so deserve,” the White House spokesperson added.
Groups representing major retailers and manufacturers urged the White House on Monday to intervene in contentious labor negotiations, citing worries about shipping disruptions during critical holiday shopping seasons.
Contract talks between the employers’ Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and workers’ International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) are in the final stretch, but frustrations are running high after more than a year at the negotiating table.
(Reporting by Jeff Mason, writing by Kanishka Singh)
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