US port congestion set to worsen as rail and truck strikes loom

Source: Splash247; Reuters
Date: 13th July 2022

America is facing the twin threats of rail and trucker strikes just as signs emerge that its ports on both coasts are getting overloaded once again. The ongoing negotiations between dockworker unions and employees on the US west coast are also fraying nerves for many involved in supply chains.

The US Chamber of Commerce has written to President, urging him to “help resolve the ongoing labor negotiations between the Class I freight railroads and the twelve rail unions by following historic precedent and appointing a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) comprised of individuals who are impartial, belong to the National Academy of Arbitrators, and have direct experience in resolving rail disputes.”

The chamber said, “It is imperative that the Administration act to prevent any disruption to America’s rail service.”

If President does not establish a PEB before 12:01 am EDT on July 18, the railroads and unions could take action to stop work by the 115,000 affected workers, through either a lockout or a strike.

A work stoppage would exacerbate congestion at US ports on all coasts and add complications to already strained supply chains.

If a PEB is appointed, it will have 30 days to make recommendations to settle issues. During that period and for 30 days following the release of the recommendations report, the two sides will be prohibited from stopping work.

A White House official said the administration “is going through the standard process that has been used in the past when considering a PEB,” according to a report from Reuters.

Meanwhile, a protest against new state law, AB5, is set to see many truckers go on strike in California from as early as today with further strikes planned for Monday too.

AB5 intends to limit the deployment of independent contractors and will classify them as employees instead.

The twin threats of road and rail strikes during the peak season come as data emerges showing congestion is growing at the country’s top two ports, Los Angeles and Long Beach. The number of import containers waiting for more than nine days at both ports has shot up this month to their highest figures in the year to date. Congestion on the east coast has been brewing for many weeks too.

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