JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – “They may not realize it, but it’s going to affect them,” said local longshoreman Ernest Smith about the looming port strike.
It’s a strike many describe as potentially crippling. Dockworkers up and down the East and Gulf coasts are planning to strike if a deal cannot be made before their contract expires on December 29.
"We must bring attention to the fact that the livelihoods of thousands of Florida families hangs in the balance if they do not reach an agreement by Saturday,” said Governor Rick Scott.
Right now, contract negotiations between the International Longshoremen’s Association and the U.S. Maritime Alliance are at a standstill. According to the Associated Press, issues including wages are unresolved, but the key sticking point is container royalties, which are payments to union workers based on cargo weight.
If their current contract does expire, a huge chunk of container cargo shipments from New England to Texas, including here at JAXPORT, will stop. If that happens, it would put a major dent in our local and national economies.
JAXPORT alone pumps $19 billion into the economy every year.
"We affect 65,000 jobs in Northeast Florida. So as the Governor has said, there's a tremendous impact,” said JAXPORT Chief Operating Officer Chris Kauffmann.
In a conference call Thursday, Scott compared this contract crisis to a West Coast port shutdown in 2002 that cost the nation $1 billion a day. Only he says, our situation could be worse.
“That means more than $1 billion would not go into our economy to support hard-working Florida families,” said Scott.
Scott sent a letter to President Obama last week asking him to invoke the Taft-Hartley Act to prevent a possible work stoppage if an agreement is not reached. But he said he is still waiting to hear back.
The National Retail Federation issued this statement:
“A coast-wide port shutdown would have a significant impact across all businesses and industries that rely on the ports, particularly retail. The last thing the economy needs right now is another strike, which would impact all international trade and commerce at the nation’s East and Gulf Coast container ports. This is truly a ‘container cliff’ in the making.”
JAXPORT told Action News if the strike does happen it will not mean a total shut-down of the port. They will still have some operations in effect and will work to keep unaffected cargo moving safely.