Yet another crisis looms over the country as the year draws to an end. East Coast dockworkers, who control the loading and unloading of goods in many of the nation’s ports, have hundreds of businesses worried over a threatened strike beginning Sunday that could paralyze the economy. The sticking points, via the New York Times:
The 14 ports threatened with a strike — including Boston; New York-New Jersey; Baltimore; Charleston, S.C.; Savannah, Ga.; Miami; and Houston — handled 110 million tons of cargo last year.
The contract negotiations, which have continued fitfully for nine months, broke off on Dec. 18. At the behest of a federal mediator, the two sides are planning to resume talks this week to try to reach a deal before the deadline of 12:01 a.m. Sunday.
Although several issues need to be resolved, the two sides are deadlocked over one point in particular. The United States Maritime Alliance, an association of shipping companies and terminal owners, is demanding concessions on “container royalty payments,” which the companies share with union members for each ton of cargo handled. The companies want to freeze those payments for current longshoremen and eliminate them for future hires.
The maritime alliance, known as USMX, says it paid $211 million in container royalties to the longshoremen last year, averaging $15,500 per eligible worker. James A. Capo, the alliance’s chairman, said that came to $10 an hour, on top of what he said were already generous wages.