The Pacific Maritime Association, which represents dock owners, said workers are expected to begin their first shift at 6 p.m. Pacific time Wednesday. The move follows a court decision late Tuesday, requested by President Bush, to return the ports to service and force warring longshoremen and port operators back to the negotiating table.
Association officials told news agencies it could take six to seven weeks to clear out the cargo sitting in some 200 ships floating off the West Coast.
Citing the billions of dollars he says the dispute has cost the U.S. economy, Mr. Bush invoked the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act, which allows the president to ask a federal court to end a strike or lockout.
“The crisis in our western ports is hurting the economy,” the president said. “It is hurting the security of our country. And the federal government must act.”
Federal Judge William Alsup issued a restraining order telling companies to reopen the docks. Alsup is expected to hear arguments next week on whether to impose the 80-day cooling-off period mandated by the Taft-Hartley Act. Such a move would ensure ports would stay open during the lucrative winter holiday season.
Pacific Maritime Association President Joseph Miniace praised the president’s decision, saying in a statement he believed Mr. Bush “acted in the best interests of the country, the economy and our national security.”
Miniace placed the blame for the continuing dispute on the longshoremen’s union, saying the group “simply would not cooperate,” and staged work slowdowns in the days before the lockout began Sept. 29.
James Spinosa, president of the International Longshore & Warehouse Union International, which represents the 10,500 effected dockworkers, denounced the move, telling The Washington Post, “The government, along with the corporate world, are trying to break unions.”
The union’s contract expired July 1, but had been extended several times in succeeding months. The sticking point in negotiations between the two sides is whether jobs created by new technology will be unionized.